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Wednesday, Jun 7, 2023

It’s Time to Stop Misleading Voters in State

On Nov . 7 we will be voting for propositions that could result in significant impacts on our economy, our schools and our ability to compete with other states and other countries for many years to come. How many will vote? How many of those who vote will be adequately informed? What criteria will voters use to decide whether to vote for or against propositions? Many have fought and lost their lives for the right to vote in free elections yet, in most California elections, significantly less than 50 % of registered voters exercise their right to vote. Many major issues are frequently decided by a minor percentage of the population. One must ask why? Many people are not motivated to vote because they think that their vote won’t count. Others don’t vote for fear of making a wrong decision due to a perceived lack of adequate understandable information. Some are turned-off by confusing ads and some just don’t care. The reasons are many. What can we do about this very sad situation? People who think that their vote doesn’t count need to be educated about the importance of every vote. I believe that strong legislation is needed to address the other reasons for not voting. There are virtually no requirements that the information presented to prospective voters in ads and voter information pamphlets (specifically, the “Arguments For and Against”) is accurate or truthful. I reviewed the voter information for Propositions 86, 87 and 88 for information discrepancies and found the following to exist: – Proposition 86 (Cigarette Tax): “Arguments For” Proposition 86 includes tough financial safeguards, including annual detailed public reporting of the use of tax funds, independent audits, limits on administrative costs and a strict prohibition against the Legislature raiding the trust funds for any other government program. This means the money will go exactly where voters intend. “Arguments Against” Prop. 86 throws millions of dollars at new bureaucratic state programs without adequate legislative or government oversight. There are NO GUARANTEES how the money will actually be spent, or assurances the money won’t be wasted. Analysis by the Legislative Analysts Office – “Oversight Provision” – This measure requires DHS to prepare an annual report describing the programs that received additional excise tax funding and how that funding was used. – Proposition 87 (Oil Tax): “Arguments For” It will reduce our dependence on oil from Saudi Arabia and Iraq – which provide 47% of California’s imported oil. “Arguments Against” Economists report that taxing California oil production will reduce instate oil production, and increase our dependence on foreign oil. Analysis by the Legislative Analysts Office The global market for oil means that California oil refiners have many options for purchasing crude oil. As a result, oil refiners facing higher-priced oil from California producers could, at some point, find it cost-effective to purchase additional oil from non-California suppliers, whose oilwould not be subject to this severance tax. – Proposition 88 (Real Property Tax for Education Funding): “Arguments For” Proposition 88 provides needed funding directly to local schools and school districts so that they, not the Legislature, decide where to spend the funds. “Arguments Against” Proposition 88 does nothing to assure that funds raised in your community are spent on your schools. Proposition 88 lets the State Legislature give your tax money to any school district in the state. Although ads must state the names of those who paid for them, fictitious names may and generally are used. There are no requirements that the fictitious names bear any relationship to those they represent. The word Coalition could be used to describe two people or two hundred people. The word Labor could be used by a group of business people and the word Business could be used by labor groups. I think it is time for legislation to assure that the information presented to voters in the voter pamphlets and ads is accurate truthful and reliable and that disclosures regarding funding of the ads is complete and that actual names of individuals or companies, not fictitious names, are used. Although it is every voter’s responsibility to thoroughly understand propositions before voting for them, the fact is that many do not read the text of the bills or the detailed analysis by the Legislative Analysts office but instead rely on the ads in the media and the arguments in the voter pamphlets. Therefore, strong legislation is needed to make sure that these voters are properly informed and not misled. Gregory N. Lippe, CPA, is managing partner of the Woodland Hills-based CPA firm of Lippe, Hellie, Hoffer & Allison, LLP and a director and vice-chair of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assoc. (VICA).

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