November 2018 California Voter Guide

Abbreviated from California + San Francisco guide

Between October 9 and November 6, Californians have the opportunity to vote on 20 statewide offices and ballot measures, plus any local races. Outcomes of this election will affect taxes, infrastructure, housing, education, healthcare, and governance, to name just a few topics. Voters’ choices will tangibly affect every Californian.

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Ballot measures

Guiding principles:

  1. Vote “no” if the legislature can do it. Ballot measures make government inflexible by requiring more ballot measures to modify them. And with 16 of them on this November’s ballot — many of them complicated — plus another 17 elected offices, voters are less equipped to arrive at optimal choices than legislators and their staff. New taxes and amendments to previous ballot measures must go to the ballot, but when a law can be enacted at the legislature rather than the ballot, it can also be studied and reformed as needed.
    Proposition 10 (No). Propositions 11 and 12 (Yes) could be at least partly legislated, but faced or would face challenges. Proposition 7 (Yes) gives the legislature power over Daylight Savings Time.
  2. Vote “no” on budget set-asides, including state general obligation bonds. For similar reasons to the above, budget set-asides reduce legislators’ ability to reprioritize the budget based on changing circumstances and newly available data. California general obligation bonds are also a form of set-aside, since they must be repaid from the General Fund.
    Propositions 1, 3, and 4 (No) are set-asides. Proposition 2 (Yes) loosens an existing set-aside.
  3. Vote “no” on tax cuts and “yes” on taxes. California and its local governments have pressing challenges that can often be addressed with additional tax revenue.
    Propositions 5 and 6 (No) are tax cuts.
  4. Maximize well-being. Whether mitigating the impacts of climate change, creating opportunity for newcomers, or improving medical care, I support public policy that helps as many people as possible. Sometimes this has costs, such as to homeowners, drivers, or EMTs, but when the benefits outweigh the costs that’s generally my preference. This principle also connects to the other three: in budgeting and other laws, legislators are best equipped to make decisions to maximize well-being, and tax revenue enables governments to invest in programs that help the neediest.
    Touches on many propositions.

For nonpartisan guides, I recommend ballot.fyi, a rigorous and fun website, and reports from the California Legislative Analyst.

Proposition 1: NO
While this $4 billion general obligation bond would in part fund useful housing programs, it also unnecessarily further subsidizes homeownership and comes at the cost of other General Fund expenditures like education and healthcare.

Proposition 2: YES
Allowing funds for mental illness treatment to be used for housing would help homeless people with mental illness, and loosens a restrictive set-aside.

Proposition 3: NO
This $8.9 billion general obligation bond for water projects comes at the expense of other General Fund uses, adding to June’s $4 billion bond for unaccountable water projects.

Proposition 4: NO
This general obligation bond takes $1.5 billion plus interest from the General Fund for children’s hospitals — including private hospitals — removing important flexibility from the General Fund.

Proposition 5: NO
Allowing seniors to transfer their low property tax assessments to new homes would cost local governments $1 billion per year and expand the disastrously regressive Prop 13 (1978).

Proposition 6: NO
Repealing last year’s gas tax would remove a key tool for reducing carbon emissions and halt critical transportation projects.

Proposition 7: YES
The legislature should have the power to make Daylight Saving year-round if it sees fit.

Proposition 8: NO
This measure to cap dialysis companies’ revenue to 115 percent of some costs doesn’t belong on the ballot: it’s the result of labor unions playing hardball in negotiations, and could put dialysis patients at risk.

Proposition 9 removed from the ballot

Proposition 10: NO
With the power to enact unlimited rent control laws, cities could block housing development when needed most, while also harming newcomers and young people.

Proposition 11: YES
The legislature should have resolved disputes to continue to require EMTs to remain on-call on breaks, but given the life-or-death nature of this problem, voters should pick up the pieces to avoid significant new ambulance costs.

Proposition 12: YES
While it would ideally be legislated, mandating space requirements for farm animals is both humane and pro-environment.

Voter-nominated offices

Statewide offices are mostly partisan. Some candidates I recommended in the June primary advanced to the general election, and for these candidates I link to the relevant recommendation. If there’s only one Democrat, I don’t generally write much or any justification, given the state of today’s Republican Party.

Governor: GAVIN NEWSOM
Newsom is the sole Democrat.

Lieutenant Governor: ELENI KOUNALAKIS
Kounalakis places more emphasis on and has more experience dealing with California’s most pressing issue: housing.

Secretary of State: ALEX PADILLA
Padilla is the incumbent and sole Democrat.

Controller: BETTY YEE
Yee is the incumbent and sole Democrat.

Treasurer: FIONA MA
While Ma has downplayed the severity of our pension crisis, she is the sole Democrat.

Attorney General: XAVIER BECERRA
Becerra is the incumbent and sole Democrat.

Insurance Commissioner: RICARDO LARA
While this is a technocratic post that should be appointed rather than elected and neither candidate is ideal, Lara is a qualified Democrat with political experience and interest in single-payer healthcare.

U.S. Senate: DIANNE FEINSTEIN
Reelect Feinstein, a liberal leader and pragmatic legislator.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction: MARSHALL TUCK
Tuck understands the importance of teacher reforms for improving education.

Written by

Economist. Founder and president of the UBI Center. Studied at MIT and UC Berkeley. YIMBY. Former Google data scientist.

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