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Two initiatives you should support and sign

Some people are fighting back with ballot measures of their own. There are two in particular which point toward a solution to California's budget problems. Whether or not there is a special election this year, we need to support these ideas.

The Equal Vote Initiative

The requirement for a 2/3 vote for any local tax measure prevents funding of the things that we need. Most of the 2/3 vote requirements were put in place by ballot measures promoted by wealthy people who do not want to pay for schools, hospitals, public transportation and help for the needy. They only need to convince a simple majority (50% plus one) of voters to pass these measures, and now we are stuck with them.

The problem is even worse in the state legislature. Our elected representatives can't pass a budget without a 2/3 vote. The governor is trying to get more power with the help of the 2/3 requirement. He wants to be able to change the budget by himself when 2/3 of the legislature can't agree quickly. His wealthy friends are helping him with a ballot initiative-which needs only a simple majority to pass.

You should support the initiative that begins "People who propose ballot measures that require more than a majority (50%) vote should live by their own rules." It simply makes it necessary for any plan that requires more than a majority vote for future action to be passed by the same proportion of voters. For instance, if someone wants to pass a law to make it necessary for 67% of voters to vote for a new book for the library, their law has to pass by 67% first.

This measure will apply not only to elections, but to votes in the legislature. If someone wants to pass a measure to require a "supermajority" (more than 50% plus one) for the legislature to pass something, that measure must be passed by the same supermajority of the voters.

This measure will be effective immediately after the election in which it passes, and will apply to any new supermajority laws in the same election as well as after. It's too bad we can't make it apply to all the supermajority rules we already have. We need to organize and fight for that as well.

Split Roll Property Tax

We need to change Proposition 13. Passed in 1978, it prevents taxation of property based on its increased value until the property is bought by a new owner. It is one reason why there is never enough money for our vital services, especially the ones provided by cities and counties. It is why the city of Salinas had to beg for money to keep its libraries open.

The problem is that many homeowners support Prop 13. The cost of housing rises so fast that people are afraid they will lose their homes if they have to pay higher taxes based on new market values. But people who buy homes at the new high prices have to pay much higher taxes. The corporations get a free ride, because they never die and seldom move, even if their employees do. Giant real estate corporations, oil fields and refineries, large office buildings, railroads and factories are paying taxes on their 1975 value.

The Tax Fairness for Homeowners Act of 2005 would allow taxes to rise for businesses and corporations according to the value of the property. It would not apply to homes, apartments or farms. It excludes the first $500,000 of "personal property" (property other than land and buildings) to protect small businesses.

When you make different rules for residential and business properties, it is sometimes called a "split-roll property tax" -- that is, one tax roll for businesses, and a separate one for people's homes. It's a way to make the corporations return some of their profits to the public good.

-- M. F.

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