By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
According to proponents, including the Coalition for a Healthy California, this boost will help dissuade hundreds of thousands of adults and especially teenagers from lighting up. That’s a good thing, especially since smoking-related deaths and illnesses cost the local Los Angeles economy $4.3 billion a year. According to California’s Department of Health, the statewide initiative would stop around 700,000 kids from becoming smokers; prevent 300,000 smoking-related deaths; and save more than $16 billion in health-care costs. In Los Angeles County alone, there are about one million adult smokers and 74,000 teenage smokers.
It is estimated that the new cigarette tax, which has not been raised since 1998, would also pull in around $2.1 billion a year and pay for myriad health services including emergency medical care, nursing-education programs, clinics, programs to dissuade adults and teens from smoking, and, most importantly, health-care insurance for a significant chunk of the state’s 800,000 uninsured children.
But opponents, among them law enforcement, taxpayer groups, business organizations, labor unions, teachers, doctors and small-business owners, don’t like the measure, believing it is just another attempt by huge hospital corporations — many of which are funding the initiative — to profit from hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars each year.
“The health-care industry says the purpose of the initiative is to curtail smoking and fund efforts within the hospitals to deal with the impacts of smoking, yet 10 percent goes to antitobacco efforts,” said Shaun Lumachi, director of government affairs for the Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce. “Where does it end? The ability of the health-care industry to go after the tobacco industry sets bad precedence.”
The measure has also raised the ire of physicians’ associations, including the Los Angeles County Medical Association, which opposes Prop. 86 because it contains exemption language that they argue could be used to violate federal and state antitrust laws. However, proponents of the measure say that safeguards are available that should help counties stop hospitals from taking advantage of the initiative. (Christine Pelisek)
PROPOSITION 87: OIL TAX
The problem: the United States consumes 22 million barrels of oil per day, 60 percent of which is imported, often from dangerous places. The habit is expensive, dirty and politically destabilizing, and may soon make the planet uninhabitable. Everyone from from the greenest Friends of the Earth hippie to the neo-neocons like James Woolsey who rightly see fuel efficiency as a national-security imperative want to change this. Everyone, that is, except the oil companies.
That’s why they’ve raised $90 million to defeat Proposition 87, by far the most money ever spent against a ballot measure. If you haven’t heard yet, Prop. 87 hopes to make a dent in California’s energy woes by directing money to energy-efficient technology research.
Such a sensible idea could only be improved upon by asking the oil companies to raise the research funds themselves. California, the measure’s backers figured out, is the only oil-producing state that charges no fee for extracting the black gold that makes the oil companies so rich. (Ever more so: Exxon Mobil, the largest corporation in the world since it reunited the antitrusted components of Standard Oil, recently posted $100 billion in earnings and more than $10 billion in profit in a single quarter.) Alaska charges 15 percent on every barrel. The federal government charges 12 percent for offshore drilling. Even Texas charges all of Bush and Cheney’s pals 4.6 percent. For once, it makes sense to follow in Texas’ footsteps. Pat Brown tried to get the oil companies to pony up in 1959. Villaraigosa tried again as assembly speaker in the 1990s. The two-thirds majority needed in the legislature made it impossible. So Prop. 87 wants to revive the idea, bring it directly to the voters, and spend the money on finding new ways to use less oil.
Sometimes legislating by plebiscite is a disaster — Proposition 13, Proposition 187, etc. — but this is a no-brainer, right? Develop new industry and save the world, all without borrowing money?
Chevron estimates Prop. 87 would cost them $200 million annually. Great! Maybe that extraction fee will even out the $5 million daily that Chevron extracted from California consumers by overcharging us 50 cents per gallon this summer, when our $3.50 gas was the priciest in the nation and Chevron was ka-chinging its way to its own record $5 billion quarterly profit.
Clean tech is a Californian idea, which is why developer cum hybrid owner Angelides and Hummer pioneer Schwarzenegger have both tried to plant their flag on it. But $90 million in negative TV ads buys a lot of misplaced skepticism. Prop. 87 is now only slightly ahead, within statistical margins, so turnout will be the difference. Arnold’s cakewalk may mean that Democrats stay home. But we need to get to the polls for the ballot measures. Don’t just vote for Prop. 87. Call everyone you know and tell them to vote on it. If we can’t wait for Washington, let’s do it ourselves. (JL)
PROPOSITION 88: EDUCATION FUNDING
This would establish a $50 tax on parcels of property for K-12 public schools. The tax would raise $450 million annually for specific educational purposes like reducing class size, textbook purchases and school safety. (Elderly and disabled homeowners are exempted from the tax.) Supporters say Prop. 88 will give the state a new revenue source, while opponents argue it will open the door to unlimited parcel-tax increases without assuring that the funds would go to local schools. (CP)