Ballot-Box Budgeting Scheme

Katy Grimes: The latest proposed state budget demonstrates exactly why California doesn’t need the new spending scheme that will appear on the ballot this June.

The budget released by the Governor last week projects that despite billions in cuts to programs over the last several years, California will still be $9.2 billion in the hole next fiscal year.  This deficit is forcing $4.2 billion in additional cuts to education and other critical public services, with the possibility of up to about $5 billion more cuts. However, these cuts are also prompting calls for tax increases.

Despite this dire fiscal condition and California’s inability to pay for many programs, notorious politician and former state Senator Don Perata is still pushing a ballot measure that would create a brand new state spending program.  The measure called the California Cancer Research Act would add nearly $1 billion worth of new spending annually, and pay for it with tax hikes on already burdened Californians.

If the initiative is approved by California’s voters, the tax on cigarettes in the state will increase by $1.00 per pack. The additional tax revenue will be used to fund cancer research, smoking reduction programs, and tobacco law enforcement.

This spending includes $16 million on the new bureaucracy to run the program, along with all the salary and pension costs that go with it.

The fiscal estimate provided by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office reports:

“Increase in new cigarette tax revenues of about $855 million annually by 2011- 12, declining slightly annually thereafter, for various health research and tobacco-related programs. Increase of about $45 million annually to existing health, natural resources, and research programs funded by existing tobacco taxes. Increase in state and local sales taxes of about $32 million annually.”

Even worse, the measure allows the vast majority of the revenue – and all the research and facilities money – to be spent outside California. Revenue from the California Cancer Research Act is expected to help groups such as the National Cancer Institute, which has a dwindling budget.

Support for the measure comes from the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association in California, American Heart Association, American Stroke Association, all of which report decreasing revenue, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and Tom Torlakson, the California Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Interestingly, Inside Bay Area reported that Oakland City Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente received a $25,000 consulting fee in August 2009 from “Hope 2010”, a ballot measure committee controlled by the Cancer Act campaign’s chairman, Don Perata. He was tasked with “contacting 10 labor groups for petition signatures and 10 business groups for campaign contributions in the Sacramento and Oakland areas.”

While education, public safety and services for the poorest in the state are being cut, this measure would send Californians’ precious tax dollars to other states.

According to Ballotpedia, 60 percent of the revenue (approximately $468 million annually) would to go research of cancer and tobacco-related disease “for the purpose of grants and loans to support research into cancer prevention.”

The initiative would create a 9-member governing committee charged with administering the fund. The California Cancer Research Act Oversight Committee will be made up of public employees.

Most people support cancer research, but there could not be a worse time for California to be creating a new spending program.  We need to fix the many problems in Sacramento, and not create huge new bureaucracies and spending programs that taxpayers have to support.

Not surprisingly, opposition to the measure comes from Californians Against Out-of-Control Taxes & Spending, funded by Altria Group Inc., the parent company of tobacco manufacturers Philip Morris USA.

The Cancer Research Act is an example of the wasteful and bogus programs voters are tricked into voting for under the guise of health and research. Ballot measurers like this that have helped  put California in the horrific budget predicaments, year after year.

The bottom line: California taxpayers should not be funding private non-profit organizations, which already get tax breaks from the government.

Joel Fox of Fox and Hounds addressed his concerns with the measure last March: “Unfortunately, it is another example of ballot-box budgeting in which revenues are limited for specific purposes with little oversight from outside agencies.”

JAN. 12, 2012

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