Tax increases, regulations in California voters hands

Kyla Brown, Staff Writer

This November, California voters will decide on 10 propositions that will determine the direction and influence of state government. These propositions, if voted into law, will determine everything from the continued funding of public education to labeling of genetically engineered foods. Below are detailed explanations of six key propositions on the ballot this November.

Prop 30 – Temporary Taxes to Fund Education
Summary:
Proposition 30 proposes to increase personal income tax on individuals making more than $250,000 a year for seven years beginning fiscal year 2012. It also aims to raise the state sales tax a quarter of a cent from 7.25 percent to 7.5 percent for the next four years.

If passed:
The temporary tax revenue would go to fund the states struggling public school programs.
An additional $6 billion of temporary tax state revenue would be available through 2016 with lesser amounts through 2019. 89 percent of the temporary tax revenue would be be distributed to primary and secondary education, while 11 percent would be given to community colleges. Funds would be spent according to local school boards in open meetings but may not be used for administrative purposes.
Prop 30 also provides guaranteed funding of public safety services. Local governments that acquired some state program responsibilities in 2011 will continue to receive funds annually from the state.

If not passed:
State sales tax and personal income tax rates would remain the same. Immediate “trigger cuts” of nearly $6 billion annually would be put into effect mostly from education programs.

Prop 38 – State Income Tax Increase to Support Education
Summary:
Not unlike Prop 30, Prop 38 seeks to increase revenue to public schools.  A major difference between the two is that Prop 38 increases revenue strictly by raising the income tax for 12 years on all but individuals making less than $7,316 annually.
State personal income tax would be raised for 12 years beginning in 2013 and ending in 2024. This would result in an estimated $10 to $11 billion of increased revenue annually.

If passed: 
During the first four years beginning 2013, 60 percent of the revenue would be used for K-12 education, 30 percent to pay down state debt, and 10 percent to early childhood programs. Through 2017-2024, 85 percent would be used for K-12 education and 15 percent would be used for early childhood programs.
Contrasting with Prop 30 in which all revenue generated would flow to Sacramento and then be redistributed to local schools; revenue generated by Prop 38 would flow directly to local school boards.
Because tax increases would not go into effect until fiscal year 2012, nearly $6 billion in spending cuts, mostly from education, would fill the gap in the state’s budget.

If not passed:
California’s public education would not receive any additional revenue beyond what is presently budgeted. If Prop 30 receives more votes than Prop 38, none of Prop 38 provisions would go into effect. Personal income tax rates and the sales tax rate would increase according to Prop 30 provisions.

*Prop 30 and 38 have been widely regarded as competing tax measures. Based on the nature of these initiatives, whichever proposition receives more than 50 percent of the vote and receives more votes overall will be implemented.
Proposition 33 – Automobile Insurance Persistency Discounts
Summary
     Proposition 33 would allow auto insurers to offer proportional discounts to drivers who have maintained auto insurance with any insurance company. Auto insurance companies would be allowed to increase insurance costs to drivers who have not maintained continuous coverage, including first time drivers or anyone who let their coverage lapse for more than 90 days. Exemptions are drivers who let their coverage lapse because of military service or unemployment up to 18 months.

If passed: 
Current state law would change allowing insurance companies to offer a “continuous coverage” discount based on previous auto insurance coverage.  This discount would be based on the number of years in the last five years that the driver maintained auto insurance. A driver who maintained continuous coverage five years gets 100 percent of the discount.

If not passed:
Current law stays the same. Under current California law, auto insurers are only allowed to set prices based on the risk of the driver. This includes the drivers safety record, the number of annual miles driven, and the number of years driven.

Prop 35: Ban on Human Trafficking and Sex Slavery
Summary:
Proposition 35 seeks to make several changes to state law and toughen the punishments for human trafficking in several ways.  The very definition of human trafficking would be expanded to include creating and distribution obscene material depicting minors. Penalties for human trafficking offenses would be harsher and longer as well as the amount of fines imposed in criminal courts on human traffickers.
In addition, certain evidence would be prohibited that could be used to prosecute a person for criminal sexual conduct, such as prostitution, if that person was a victim of human trafficking.  Also, it would require additional human trafficking training for police officers.

If passed:
The maximum criminal penalty for human trafficking would increase.  Those convicted of labor trafficking could face a potential prison sentence of 12 years. Those convicted of forcing a minor into sex trafficking could face life in prison.
Fines would also increase, up to $1.5 million for all human trafficking offenses. Fines collected would go to support human trafficking victims and to law enforcement and prosecution agencies.

If not passed: 
Current state law would stay the same. The maximum criminal penalty for labor trafficking would stay at five years, forced trafficking of a minor at eight years. The maximum fine for sex trafficking of a minor is currently at $100,000.

Proposition 36: Changes in the “Three Strikes” Law
Summary:
Proposition 36 seeks to revise the current three strikes law. Under current law, a person convicted of a felony who has two or more serious or violent felony convictions on their record will be sent to prison for 25 years to life regardless of the nature of the felony. If Proposition 36 were to pass, 25 years to life sentences would only be imposed when a felony conviction is considered serious or violent, such as murder, robbery, or rape.
If passed:
Some “third strikers” would get a shorter sentence, if the third felony was non-serious and non-violent. The prison term would be twice the sentence as the usual term for a new offense instead of the current “third strike” 25 years to life sentence.
     Certain inmates who had already been convicted under the “three strikes rule” could apply to be resentenced if their third conviction was non-serious and non-violent. Certain drug, sex, and gun related non-serious and non-violent felonies would still be subject to a life sentence. Resentenced offenders would serve twice the usual term for their “third strike” instead of the 25 years to life term.

If not passed:
The current law, Proposition 184 also known as the current “three strikes” law, would stay in effect. Long prison sentences would remain on all third strikers who have two or more violent or serious felonies on their record.

Prop 37 – Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food Initiative
Summary:
Proposition 37 would require that many foods to be sold to consumers have a specific food label if any plant or animal ingredient was produced with genetic engineering. This includes raw and processed foods and prohibits any labeling of foods made with genetically engineered ingredients as “natural.”

If passed:
Foods with genetically engineered, or GE, ingredients would be required to be labeled specifically as a GE food. This includes 40 to 80 percent of food products sold in California according to California’s official voter guide. The vast majority of GE crops include corn and soybeans, a staple in many processed foods.
The proposition has a large number of exceptions, including certified organic foods, foods sold for immediate consumption to restaurants, foods produced unintentionally from GE materials, GE materials for the treatment of medical conditions, and alcoholic beverages, among others.
The California Department of Public Health would be required to regulate the labeling of GE foods, costing the state as much as one million dollars to regulate and monitor compliance of the measure.
Californians would also be able to sue food manufactures who violate the labeling regulations.

If not passed:
Food manufactures will not be required to label their products produced using genetic engineering.

Source: California Official Voter Information Guide