Unions’ Assault on Reason Continues

Last month, San Jose’s Democrat mayor Chuck Reed filed paperwork for a statewide ballot measure that would bring some sense and fairness to California’s crazy public employee pension disaster-in-the-making. His idea, co-endorsed by a half dozen other mayors of large California cities (five of them Democrats), is a simple one: Treat public employee unions like private employee unions.

Cities on the brinkSpecifically, his measure, if approved, would lock in benefits already received but would open the door to negotiate changes moving forward. What we’re stuck with may be enough to sink us – about a half trillion dollars of unfunded liability by some accounts – but Reed’s measure could keep us from heaping more and more debt onto our state’s perilous financial condition.

In a bit of diplomacy, Reed asked the unions to meet to discuss the measure. Maybe he thought they would spare California voters the trouble of petition signing and the pain of listening to millions of dollars worth of distorted union commercials opposing the measure. If he thought for a moment public employee unions were ready to start acting responsibly, he couldn’t have been more wrong. In response to his offer, a letter signed by representatives of 17 public employee unions said:

Meaningful dialog can only occur in an environment of trust and sincerity. Your choice, to first introduce this draconian and flawed measure and then invite dialogue, shows a lack of both.

In other words, “Drop dead, Reed!”

What is so flawed about the measure? Well, let’s see what the unions have to say:

As you are well aware, there is a retirement crisis in California.

Yes, we knew that. Over-generous public pensions and benefits are indeed a crisis. A big,  hairy, no-end-in-sight crisis. But that’s not the crisis the unions see.

A study released just this week noted that 42 percent of Americans say that saving money for retirement and paying their bills is not possible; 37 percent say they will never be able to retire, continuing to work until they are sick and die.

Rest assured that not one of those respondents had a CalPERS or CalSTERS pension coming his or her way. No, our public servants masters will be able to retire at 55 or 60 (younger if they’re cops or fire fighters) with a pension that averages over $60,000 a year. The rest of us may work until we get sick and die, but not public employees. Nearly all of them will work until the day they’re fully vested and not a day more.

The unions’ response to reasonable and much-needed curtailment of their gold-plated gravy train is to say they’d like to see all society as loony as they are. They have no plan for attaining this goal, and they are not likely to present a plan anytime soon. they figure all they need, given their history of being able to dupe California’s millions of low-information voters, is a mere flimsy puff of smokescreen just thick enough to divert attention from their greed.

Hopefully even low-information voters are getting smart enough to understand destructive self-interest when they see it. If you know any who aren’t, please send them a copy of Crazifornia.

 

The GASB Shoe Falls on California Pension Plans

Pension Crisis StatesFor years, pension hawks like Orange County supervisor John Moorlach have been warning that California’s already toxic public employee pension plan deficits will get much worse once Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) rules take effect. Among other things, the rules will require the big pension plans like CalPERS and the teachers’ plan CalSTERS to use more realistic projections for the returns they will earn on their investments. Now we know how much more toxic:

New government accounting rules will more than double the pension debt reported by CalSTRS, boosting an “unfunded liability” that is now about $71 billion to a newly calculated “Net Pension Liability” of $166.9 billion.

The CalSTRS board was told last week that it’s unclear whether the new liability figure will be reported by the state or spread among school districts, where more than doubling current debt might lower credit ratings and drive up borrowing costs.

If the “Net Pension Liability” is distributed among employers, the reported total debt of a typical small-enrollment school district might jump from $21 million to $49 million and the debt of a typical large district from $280 million to $728 million.

Neither the state nor the school districts have been including CalSTRS debt in their financial statements. The new accounting rules call for pension debt to be added to employer balance sheets. [CalPensions]

GASB exists to end of the sort of accounting shenanigans described here, including projecting investment returns well above those earned by Warren Buffett and this: “Neither the state  nor the school districts have been including CalSTRS debt in their financial statements.” This practice is, to use an accounting term, insane. The state and the school districts know they will be hit with hugely higher pension costs unless the current pension debt isn’t zeroed out by either (1) most retirees dying tomorrow or (2) the market routinely returning more than 8 percent on all investments, all the time.

The big public employee pension plans are required to switch to GASB rules in this year’s financial reporting, and employers whose employees are covered by the plans – your city, your county, your school district – must make the switch in their 2014 reports.

Look for two things: First, the unions will blame it all on “just a change in accounting rules,” even if those rules exist to create more accurate reports, and second, government at all levels will be coming at you with tax  hike proposals.

The “California Miracle” Media Frenzy

Rolling Stone BomberRolling Stone, the music magazine with a longstanding hard-left view of politics (infamously evidenced by the accompanying cover), has gone mainstream.

Like dozens of mainstream media before it, it is hero-worshiping Jerry Brown, praising him for the “miraculous” economic rebound California is enjoying. Before we question how miraculous it may be, let’s let Tim Dickenson, the author of “Jerry’ Brown’s Tough-Love Miracle” in the current issue of Rolling Stone, explain just what Jerry’s pulled off:

America’s shrewdest elder statesmen blazed a best-worst way out of California’s economic morass. With a stiff cocktail of budget cuts and hard-won new taxes, Brown has not only zeroed out the deficit, he’s also begun paying down the debt. “Jerry Brown’s leadership is a rebuttal to the failed policies of Republicans in Washington,” says Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress. “California is proving you can have sane tax systems, raise revenues, eliminate structural deficits and have economic growth.”

Fed up with the state’s own obstructionist Republicans, California voters have even given Brown a Democratic supermajority in the state legislature. As a result, the Golden State is now reasserting itself as a proving ground for the kind of bold ideas that Republicans have roadblocked in Washington – including a cap-and-trade carbon market, high-speed rail and education-funding reform.

Nobody moveAs an obstructionist Republican myself, I understand the courage it takes – and ridicule it engenders – to stand in front of a run-away train like California, hold up your measly skin-and-bone hand against the juggernaut, and scream “Halt!” I get the motivation behind trying to stop giving the state more money to spend when it has such a robust history of blowing through every penny it’s got and having less to show for it than a sailor waking up with a crippling hangover and a budding case of the clap.

Be that as it may, Dickenson is right. California voters did give the Democrats a super-majority, which in turn gives Brown everything he needs to create his legacy. Republican-weary journalists around the nation responded joyfully to last November’s election results, heralding a turn-around in California with stories that, like Dickenson’s are designed to mute small government, anti-tax Republicans everywhere.

I’m not grumbling about a better California economy – far from it. When the unemployment rate falls from 12.5 percent to 8.7 percent, as California’s has, it means formerly desperate people are getting by again, children are eating better, and businesses are getting back customers they lost. (It also means a lot of Californians gave up on the state and left for more job-friendly places, of course, but why bother pointing that out?) What I’m grumbling about is how rose-tinted Dickenson’s glasses are.

He praises Brown on the environment while ignoring how California’s toughest-in-the-nation environmental regulations, along with its Progressive tax structure, drive businesses out of state.

He loves how California is leading the way to Obamacare, while ignoring the fact that major insurers are bailing from the state’s plan, raising questions about its viability.

He gives Brown good marks on education because spending is up, but ignores the fact that California’s schools continue to slide. Eighty-six percent of schools in the state fell short of No Child Left Behind goals this year.

And worst in the world of objective reporting, he fails to mention any of the many troubles that threaten California’s future economic vitality.  The voter-approved 2012 tax hike Brown championed isn’t permanent, so the current bump in revenues will drop in just over three years when the sales tax increase ends, and peter out the following year when the sales tax increase ends.

Meanwhile, Brown is not attending to the state’s fundamental fiscal instability. He isn’t proposing changes to the state’s over-reliance on income taxes on the wealthy. His lifelong fondness of public employee unions is keeping him from addressing the unfunded liabilities the state, its counties and cities carry in their employee pension plans. And his long-running, red-hot love affair with Mother Nature doesn’t bode well for any meaningful effort to make the state less regulated and therefore more business-friendly. In fact, the state’s renewable energy goals and carbon taxes are going to drive up energy costs (we’re already $3.90/kilowatt hour more expensive than the national average) and make electricity less reliable. That will force even more businesses to leave.

Rolling Stone can have its fun and write happily about all the cool stuff that happens when Republicans are minimized to irrelevance. Let’s see how well they cover the impending, inevitable consequences of having too many Democrats in the wheelhouse.

California’s Mullet Budget

It’s all hoopla in Sacramento today as Jerry Brown and the Legislative leaders sign the 2013-2014 California state budget into law. Jerry calls the balanced budget a sign that things are rosy in California again.

I say rose is just another shade of red.

The budget keeps the state employee pension gravy train intact, along with its $500 billion dollar hit on future generations. It doesn’t do nearly enough to address our debt, which is now pegged at $100,000 per California household. And it keeps the multi-billion-dollar boondoggle known as California High Speed Rail on track.

But wait, it gets even worse than that.

mulletThe guy with the best line about this dangerously expensive sham of a budget is Republican Assemblyman Jeff Gorell of Camarillo who called it “the mullet budget” – Conservative in front, very liberal in back.

He pointed to how the budget defers the restart of several expensive social welfare programs that were cut during the recession until the 11th month of the fiscal year. If those very expensive, very ongoing programs were implemented at the start of the budget year, or even  half way through the budget year, the budget would not be balanced. So … conservative up front, liberal in the back. Brilliant!

Of course, the next California budget will have to start with the assumption those programs will be in effect for all 12 months, so a new trick will be needed to balance the books. Maybe a new tax on millionaires ….

For more on what’s wrong with the budget Brown and the Democrat super-majority are pretending to be so happy about, read this post by Katy Grimes at CalWatchdog.

 

Public Servants? What Public Servants?

Pension Buffet

The originator of the term “public servant” is gone and long-forgotten, but kudos to whoever came up with that very impressive bit of spin. It certainly has a better connotation than “lazy, under-ambitious paper-shuffler.”

It’s not surprising many government workers identify with the term. If they have forsaken other, higher paying jobs so they can work diligently and tirelessly for the public’s benefit, then they have earned some right to use the word. But they lose that right if they’re clinging stubbornly to benefit plans that cheat the public.

It’s hard to think “public servant” when considering the members of various public employee unions who allow their union bosses to stubbornly and dogmatically protect unsustainable public employee pensions and retirement benefits, even while driving municipalities into insolvency and forcing governments to cut services to the public. If government workers see themselves as public servants, then the majority of them need to face reality, stand up at their next union meeting and shout:

I didn’t sign up for this! I don’t want my retirement plan to harm the citizens I have pledged to serve. It’s time to admit that human decency and professional responsibility top legal precedents. It’s time to be motivated by fairness, not greed! Hey, union boss! Rewrite our contracts!

Have you heard a single public employee union member – a single public servant – say that modest trimming around the edges of their benefit programs isn’t enough? That their fixed benefit retirement plans must be converted NOW to fixed contribution plans? That they shouldn’t expect municipalities that are going broke to continue to pay more into their employees’ retirement plans than the employees themselves pay? That the life-time free medical care in their contracts isn’t free – it costs the public?

No, of course you haven’t.

Until this becomes a chorus that drives union leaders to relent and allow full-blown rewriting of existing contracts, government workers are not public servants. Rather, they are public masters, lording over the public, not serving them.

I suggest you start calling them that, and when they ask what you mean, give them an earful.

 

Enough Already!

scared-on-the-slide[1]It’s been an election roller-coaster ride lately in California.

Last June’s mid-term election: UP! Voters in both San Jose and San Diego overwhelmingly passed ballot measures to limit the cost explosions going on with public employee pensions.

Last November’s general election: DOWN! Two tax measures passed, meaningful reform died and the Democrats swept every state-wide office and seized super-majorities in both the Senate and Assembly.

Tuesday’s LA municipal elections: UP AGAIN! Sure, the GOP candidate for mayor only got 16.6 percent of the vote, missing the run-off by – yikes! – 13 points. And sure, a “cost neutral” change to police and fire pension paperwork-shuffling passed. (Time will tell if it is really cost-neutral.)

EnoughOvershadowing those votes was the dismal, high-profile failure of Proposition A, which would have imposed a permanent one-half cent sales tax increase to fund the continuation of Los Angeles’ exorbitant “business as usual” big government money-squandering.

Had it passed, LA’s sales tax would have been 9.5 percent, one of the highest in the nation.

Here’s the list of would-be recipients of A’s largess: 911 emergency response services; firefighters, paramedics, and police officers (by protecting current staffing levels); community policing; senior services; after-school gang and drug prevention programs, and pothole and sidewalk repairs. LA voters decided it wasn’t worth it, and it failed by a whopping 55/45 margin – blowout numbers! – even though big government advocates like SEIU and the police and fire unions wasted $1.3 million trying to pass it.

It’s looking increasingly like November’s Prop 30 tax  hike is being seen by voters as the last tax they want to pass. When you consider that 66% of LA voters voted for Prop 30 and 55% voted against A, the shift in opinion in just four months is impressive testimony in support of the position that in even liberal LA, voters have had enough of higher taxes.

Public Servants or Buccaneers?

Pillage and PlunderThere’s a new retirement community for California’s public employees called Treasure Island. It’s a lovely place where they can “Harrr! Harrr! Harrr!” their way through their golden  years as they live off their treasure chests piled high with the plunder they stole from the people during their working years.

Treasure Island appears to be located in Fresno County. Surprised? You shouldn’t be:

Fresno County’s pension costs are expected to grow in the coming year — again — continuing to tie up more than one of every four dollars at the county’s disposal.

County leaders have taken steps to address the increasing burden, but their actions are yet to turn around a retirement system in which promises far exceed cash flow.

The increase in costs, detailed in a retirement report released last week, has put county administrators on damage control — trying to absorb the hit in next year’s budget while sparing already-underfunded county programs, from unmaintained parks to short-staffed libraries to a scaled-back Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s going to be very difficult for the county over the next few years,” Supervisor Debbie Poochigian said. “As pension costs go up, it just takes more of the pie and leaves less for everything else.”

The new retirement report projects that the county will have to contribute about $7 million more during the 2013-14 fiscal year over the current year to stay on top of its pension obligations — a total of $176 million.

That’s up 50% over five years.

Including retirement debt, about $212 million of the county’s roughly $1.8 billion budget next fiscal year will go toward pensions. (Fresno Bee)

When it becomes this bad – inflated, over-promised pensions taking up one quarter of a county’s budget, with the amount growing every year! – why aren’t “public” servants rising up and saying, “Enough! This is unconscionable! We can’t steal from the public like a bunch of buccaneers sailing about plundering and raping! Re-write our contracts NOW!”

But of course, they aren’t saying that, or anything like it.

Many ask why Muslims don’t speak out against terrorist jihad. It’s even worse with public employees, because they don’t just not speak out against unsustainable pensions. No, they (or the union reps they hide behind) shout down any voice of reason that calls these pirates’ pensions what they truly are – the legalized theft of public funds.

The State of the State of Despair

casosGovernor Brown had something to say to Crazifornia this morning as he kicked off his State of the State speech:

Against those who take pleasure, singing of our demise, California did the impossible.

That would be me – about 300 pages worth of singing of our demise, or at least the increasing probability of our demise.

The impossible, as Brown defined it, is that “We have wrought in just two years a solid and enduring budget.” I agree it’s two years since he took office. I’m not at all ready to call the budget solid and enduring, as it is based on a lot of assumptions that still could go sideways.

Brown was quick to give credit to those who had a part in “doing the impossible.”

You, the California legislature, did it. You cast difficult votes to cut billions from the state budget. You curbed prison spending through an historic realignment and you reformed and reduced the state’s long term pension liabilities.

That’s a pretty impossible characterization of what the state did. Pushing prison expenses off to counties instead of addressing the root causes isn’t fixing anything, and it’s certainly not heroic. It just transfer to pain to counties that can’t fight back.

The touted reform and reduction of the state’s long term pension liabilities, while welcomed, was akin to the rate of speed of a great Roman galley when only one oarsman is rowing. Trimming around the edges is not a haircut. Reducing benefits for new hires still saddles us with 30 years of unaffordable liability from the previously hired. (More on this in a minute.)

Then, the citizens of California, using their inherent political power under the Constitution, finished the task. They embraced the new taxes of Proposition 30 by a healthy margin of 55% to 44%.

Yes they did, and now we get to watch the Legislature burn through that money instead of approaching it, to use a favorite word of the Sacramento majority, with sustainability as a goal. And watch tax revenues drop off in the latter years of Prop 30′s seven year life as business owners peel out to other states, taking their taxability with them.

Members of the legislature, I salute you for your courage, for wholeheartedly throwing yourself into the cause.

What else is he going to say to his Democrat super-majorities? Now came the most telling 22 words of the speech:

I salute the unions–their members and their leaders. You showed what ordinary people can do when they are united and organized.

And there you have Jerry Brown. A union guy through and through. A guy who knows who’s buttering his bread. A guy who knows that big, fat public employee unions equal big, fat Democrat election margins.

Things are looking better in California since I wrote the last word of Crazifornia. Unemployment is down. That’s good; we’re all for less human suffering. And tax revenues are up. That’s certainly one way to close a deficit – not my favorite way, but certainly a way.

Still, sorry Jerry! I’m still singing of our demise. I’ll change my tune when taxes go down and California starts treating businesses like assets instead of asses; when the union grip on Sacramento is loosened and we seriously address the $250-$500 billion shortfall in public employee benefit funding by rewriting contracts and reducing benefits for existing employees; and when we have a governor who kills High Speed Rail and stops trying to single-handedly save the world from climate change.

It’s not too much to ask. But in California it is, to use Brown’s words from earlier today, doing the impossible.

The Second Day of the Twelve Days of Crazifornia

“On the second day of Crazifornia,
Moonbeam gave to me two super-majorities
And a tax hike on millionaires.”

I finished writing Crazifornia immediately after the June 2012 primary election, so it ended a bit more up-beat than I thought it would. After all, voters in San Diego and San Jose had just voted overwhelmingly to aggressively address those cities’ public employee pension programs.  What could go wrong?

November could go wrong – and boy, did it!

California voters passed two tax hikes and rejected a much-needed end to public employee unions’ ability to mandate political contributions from their members, which was bad enough. Then they made things infinitely worse by granting the Democrats – who are most responsible for the state’s sad condition – super-majorities in both the Senate and Assembly.

Their new super-majorities mean the Democrats will no longer have to look for a Republican or two who will join them in voting for tax increases. With two-thirds of the votes in both houses in the Democrats’ hands, they will now be free to raise taxes whenever, on whomever and however much they want to.

Do you think the wealthy and successful will stand for this? Or will they pack their bags?

And it gets worse. Two super-majorities mean Democrats can impose new legislation retroactively, rush legislation through the process and increase the amount of high jinx they can pull off during marathon end-of-session legislation orgies.

And it gets even worse. Gov. Brown is now our only defense against Dems Gone Wild – how scary is that? – but with super-majorities, the Assembly and Senate can override the governor’s vetoes.

Happy New Year … not.

The Crazifornia Propositions Voter Guide

Uglies, Goodies and Don’t Bother Me’s make the Crazifornia Proposition Voter Guide a Must!

When I was interviewed by The Weekly Standard for an upcoming article about this November’s flock of Crazifornia ballot initiatives, that’s how I categorized them: “Five uglies, four goodies and two don’t bother me’s.” (I’m still not sure how to spell that last one!) Coming up with that summary took hours of research, which you can save yourself with The Crazifornia Propositions Voter Guide.

Here are my recommendations, in ballot order, with those in red being the most critical:

Prop 30 – Ugly

It’s hard to even get by the name of this one – Temporary  Taxes to Fund Education, Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding – without uttering that most common of election season bromides, “How stupid do they think we are?”

This proposition’s position at the top of the ballot is the result of Gov. Jerry Brown’s strong-arming of the system to gain advantage, and that pretty much sums up this initiative. Its advertising campaign is basically strong-arming, too; picture an image of a sweet classroom teacher with a gun to her head and the slogan, “Pay up or the teacher dies!” Brown could have linked passage of his tax  hike to the jobs of bureaucrats, regulators and tax-collectors instead of teachers, but we know how that would turn out.

If Proposition 30 passes, California will have the highest income taxes of all 50 states, and its already secure ranking as the state with the highest sales tax will become more secure.  California spends three times more per capita on social welfare programs than it should, based on national per capita averages. It doesn’t need more revenue, it needs more disciplined spending. Vote NO.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: Closing steadily at 50.8 yes, 39.9 no. We might still defeat this one!

Prop 31 -  Goodie

If the LA Times is against it, we must be for it. This latest effort from California Forward would create a two-year budget cycle for the state in order to reduce end-of-the-session craziness (I doubt the craziness would disappear, but still like the idea of taking more time with budgeting), require the legislature to find off-setting cuts for any new expenditure of $25 million or more, require performance reviews of all state programs, plus a few other good ideas.

The LA Times doesn’t like it because “it could only be revised by another vote of the people.” Exactly! Leave it to the legislature and they’ll be back to their old tricks in no time.  Vote YES, but note that OC Supervisor John Moorlach, a leader in the fight for fiscal responsibility let me know he’s voting no because it “forecloses on the Laffer curve” by limiting the legislature’s ability to enact tax decreases. Like all things from California Forward, 31 is a mixed bag.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: About one-third are still undecided so this one could still flip. Yes: 30.7, no 37.8

Prop 32: Goodie

Here’s another run at “paycheck protection” or curtailing the power of unions (and corporations) to mandate paycheck deductions used for campaigning and lobbying. Of course, corporations don’t do mandatory payroll deductions for lobbying, so clarity demands saying that this is an effort to curtail union power.

And it needs to be curtailed if California is every going to gain the fiscal sensibility it must gain to become healthy once again. Public employee unions own Sacramento now, as just the two biggest public union funders of lobbying in Sacramento spend more than the pharmaceutical industry, PG&E, Chevron and ATT&T combined.

The unions are spending really big to stop Prop 32, contributing nearly $60 million thus far. Until Charles Munger responded with a $23 million contribution in support, opponents had outraised supporters five to one. They’re still up by about $13 million.Vote YES

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: A long-running dead heat, with 44.4% yes and 43.8% no.  The 11.5% undecided are going to be barraged with ads from both sides.

Prop 33: Don’t bother me

This is Mercury Insurance CEO George Joseph’s second run at insurance regulation tweaking via the ballot box. Last time around (Prop. 17, 2010), Mercury spent about what they’ve spent this time – $17 million – trying to accomplish the same thing, which is to blah, blah, blah, zzzzz.  I figure they figure they’ll make more than $17 million off higher premiums if it passes.

One reason to vote for it is that Harvey Rosenfield is against it. This is a guy who has milked propositions for millions in personal gain, so I lean toward supporting what he opposes. But this kind of junk shouldn’t be clogging our ballots, so Don’t Vote.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: Holding at 54.8% yes, 33.6% no.

Prop 34: Ugly

Propositions, as you’ll learn in Chapter 1 of Crazifornia, were the Progressive’s wet dream of the early 1900s. Prop 34 shows why, as it would take capital punishment off the table in California, thereby moving the state closer to Europe.

Arguments fly on both sides of this longstanding and controversial issue, but here’s one that works for me: If the death penalty is no longer in a prosecutor’s bag of tricks, the number of plea bargains and confessions will drop dramatically. Even with delays that are far too long before sentencing and execution, the chance of taking up residence on death row remains the penultimate bargaining chip. I don’t want it taken away, and neither should anyone else who puts victims and justice ahead of criminals and legal technicalities. Vote No.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: Steady and unbelievably tight at 43.9 yes, 44.9 no.

Prop. 35: Don’t bother me

Don’t bother me, but don’t get me wrong. I’m no fan of human trafficking, a subject I wrote passionately about quite frequently in my Cheat-Seeking Missiles days. It’s the sinful side of the human nature played large and its perpetrators will need Christ’s forgiveness; they’re certainly not getting mine.

But why is it on the ballot? Even the inept California legislature has done enough law-passing to discourage the practice and incarcerate the perpetrators. Since it won’t make any difference in the results, Don’t Vote.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: Yes 79.7%, no 12.3%.

Prop. 36: Goodie

I was all for the first three-strikes proposition, but it turns out that it had unintended consequences, as so many propositions do. Prop 36 corrects this while keeping the intent of the original proposition intact.

Basically, it separates truly heinous offenders from run of the mill bad guys, with the former still subject to life in prison without parole on their third strike and the others not. California spends way too much on prisons for a lot of reasons, one of which is that we simply have too many prisoners. Let’s save some money by letting some bad but not too bad guys do their crime and serve their time. Vote Yes.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: Yes 71.5%, no 17.3%. It looks like even Californians can agree on this one.

Prop. 37: Ugly

If California’s recent voting trend holds, Prop. 37 will pass because it has a lot of corporate money against it. Yes, a big majority of Californians are anti-business and it shows on proposition votes (and when rich Republicans run for state office, right Meg?). And this one has a lot of corporate money flooding the opposition.

But the current Around the Capital Polling Average indicates that might not happen this time. The yes vote is strong at 56.2%, but the no vote is climbing at 32.7%, and a lot of money will be spent on NO ads in the next two weeks.

It made my ugly list because Prop. 37 is the new Prop. 65.  In other words, it was written by trial lawyers for trial lawyers. Like 1986′s Prop. 65, it has a seed of a good idea. Then it was that people shouldn’t be exposed to carcinogenic chemicals without knowing it; now it’s that they shouldn’t be exposed to genetically engineered foods without knowing it. But like 65 was an elaborate ploy to funnel millions of dollars to trial lawyers (almost $500 million to date, in fact), so is Prop 37.

Don’t be fooled. Prop 37 is not about informative labels for you. It’s about label regulations that are so complex that farmers, processors, manufacturers and retailers are bound to make mistakes. And when they do, they’ll be sued by a pack of legal mutants. Vote NO.

Prop. 38: Ugly

Prop. 38 is another tax increase, but with this one the money is earmarked for schools. Why, if 1988′s Prop. 98 guarantees they’ll get over 40% of the general fund anyway? And why, since all that money has done nothing to lift our schools out of the cellar?

Well, it turns out the state legislature routinely steals Prop. 98 money from schools and rarely pays it back. In Crazifornia, I put the current IOU at $3.6 billion. Surprised?

But what good would even $3.6 billion do? At a luncheon yesterday, political mastermind Dan  Schnur quoted a Harvard study that found it would take $1 trillion a year to raise California schools to mere mediocrity if nothing is done beyond money to improve the system.

So let’s force the schools and the legislature to fix education by not giving the schools more money. Let’s force Sacramento to drop regulations that cost school districts $400 million a year to keep up with. Let’s let classrooms get bigger again because we’ve learned that all we’ve gotten from small classrooms is more mediocre teachers. Vote NO.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: Yes 42.1%, No 47.0%

Prop. 39: Ugly

This one will pass for sure because it taxes the other guy, and Californians don’t mind taxing the other guy, as they do regularly with smokers, drinkers and millionaires. (Hm, strange company there!)

Be that as it may, there are two things wrong with Prop. 39 that definitely make it ugly. First, it taxes business. Yes, they’re out of state businesses, but Californians are more addicted to taxing business than smokers are to cigarettes, drinkers are to booze and millionaires are to … success. They’ve hit bottom. It’s time for an intervention, not another hit.

Second, about half the money raised – a stunning $500 million a year – will go to “create energy efficiency and green energy jobs” in California. Haven’t we had enough Solyndras and A123′s? Vote NO.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: No surprise at 54.2% yes and 30.7% no.

Prop. 40: Goodie

Here’s something more rare than a California gnatcatcher eating an elderberry beetle: A GOP-sponsored proposition that’s polling very favorably. But that may be because it’s just the precursor to the really big vote that will follow.

Prop. 40 would subject the California senate district lines drawn by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission to a vote of the people, with interim boundaries for the next state-wide election set by court-appointed officials. California Democrats smartly and unethically took over the Citizens Redistricting Commission so the boundaries need to be redrawn. This proposition will make that vote possible. Vote YES.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: 44.2% yes and 25.8% no. It should win, but with 30% undecided, it could still go south.