With the November election just a few weeks away, it is time to take a serious look at the issues on the Ballot. We are faced with electing the President/Vice President of the United States, Senator and Representative to the US Congress, Member to the State Senate and Assembly, County Board of Supervisors, along with the election of members to School Boards and Special Districts. You are able to educate yourself about these candidates by listening to them on where they stand on particular issues and whether or not they agree with your position.
The 11 State Propositions and Local Measures are another story. I have been asked about the ballot measures more during this election season than any other that I can recall – not about how I would vote but would I explain my interpretation of the Proposition’s description. After several inquiries, I decided to increase my knowledge of the measures. And after reading and re-reading the language of the measures, I came away understanding some, confused by some, and having more questions about others.
The two most confusing are Propositions 30 and 38. Wording for Proposition 30 would raise personal income and sales tax to go to schools. What it does not say is that the funds already going to schools could not be taken and used for other purposes leaving the schools in the same financial straits as they are today. Proposition 38 would raise personal income tax to raise funds to go toward school programs. Could the situation with Proposition 38 be the same as Proposition 30 where there is no protection for funds already going to schools?
Propositions 30 and 38, perhaps well-intentioned, could provide the State Legislature with another pot of money to grab by increasing taxes for schools and them taking the money already earmarked for them to use elsewhere. I seem to remember that the California Lottery was supposed to help fund schools.
Even though I am very supportive of providing quality education for our youth, I am against playing confusing word games and working on sympathies to play shell games. Sacramento continues to look for any money that they are able to get their hands on.
In the August 31, 2012 edition of the San Mateo Times was a list of 66 individuals with pensions exceeding $200,000 per year. This list did not include Alameda and San Mateo counties as the “officials demanded to be paid for their pension data”. Of the 66 individuals listed, 30 of them worked for educational agencies, 12 from fire agencies, and 21 from city and county government. The total amount for the 66 retirees is about $15 million per year for life while the total amount for the 30 educational members of the $200K club is about $6.8 million. I can only speculate at this time that the numbers are probably similar for San Mateo and Alameda Counties.
As a Councilmember, I am constantly driven by sound fiscal management and recently have been more focused on municipalities and their unsustainable pensions. But after seeing the San Mateo Times article, I have become equally concerned with pensions in the school system. Perhaps it is time for the State’s educational system to take a hard look at their pension system.
I realize that our teachers are paid very little as they have constantly been singled out as a group who are in need of affordable housing. After looking at the $200,000 per year pension numbers for those in education, perhaps a more scrutinized review is in order before asking the voters to approve raising our taxes for education from not one but two State Propositions.
In my last article “Pension Reform – Part II”, I applauded Sacramento for addressing pension reform for the long term, but I remain as concerned as ever about the short to medium term. Retirements among baby-boomers are increasing at a rapid pace which will continue to test the depth of the current pension fund pockets.
I do not like finding ourselves being in a position of “hoping” for an economic recovery to mask over our financial woes until the next economic slump. I do suggest that you read each measure carefully in the hopes of casting your informed vote.
In this November 6 election, I urge you to be an informed voter but “Be a Voter”.
I would appreciate your comments on this and other issues by emailing me at email@example.com or 650-573-7359.
October 10, 2012
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