Debra J. Saunders

Proposition 87 reflects the latest Hollywood fad -- a Richie Rich bankrolls a measure that dictates how the state should spend billions, while creating a petty fiefdom for the backers. You saw it with Proposition 71, the stem-cell measure. Now Hollywood biggie Stephen Bing has promised to plunk down $40 million to entice voters to spend $4 billion on research and tax credits to boost alternative energy use.

The mechanism? Taxing someone else (oil producers) while borrowing the money to pay for new spending by issuing bonds. The power? No surprise, it will go to a new Designer Authority (the California Energy Alternatives Program Authority) with a Designer Board spending the pot.

The hype: You won't pay, as Prop. 87 prohibits oil producers from passing on the new tax. California oil producers will pay. Nonsense. Raise the price of extracting oil and some shops will shut down. As the legislative analyst noted, if voters raise the cost of extracting California crude, at some point state refiners will buy out-of-state oil. There will be less oil, and it will cost refiners more. You're dreaming if you think that won't drive up the cost of gasoline.

This measure even comes with Hollywood accounting. The legislative analyst noted that Prop. 87's wording on tax rates "could be interpreted in two different ways." That's like two sets of books. While the measure promises to burn through $4 billion over time, voters won't know if the new tax will bring in $225 million or some $485 million annually. Voters should not approve of a measure whose authors could not be bothered to draft its language clearly.

Proposition 88 would create a statewide parcel tax of $50 per property to raise more money for schools -- but it is so flawed that even the California Teachers Association cannot support it. When the CTA says that a new tax for schools is bad policy, you know it's really, really bad.

Vote no, no, no. I understand the temptation to vote for measures that sound good or look good. But when millions of dollars are levied and spent because they look good, voters end up with a pricey mix of designer accessories that don't necessarily work together. Meanwhile, the state isn't keeping up with its monthly payments. Responsible adults make sure they can meet their usual bills first.

Debra J. Saunders

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