Prop Wash

Confused About The Propositions In The Coming Election? Here's How To Vote On The Most Amusing Ones.
By Emil Franzi

HERE ARE THE propositions appearing on the November 5 ballot we thought you should know about:

PROPOSITION 100 IS sneaky as hell. If you like and trust legislative bodies, and think they should have more power and you less, then you'll like this one.

What it does is expand the power of the legislature on taxing issues and eliminate the power of the people to put those issues to a referendum by letting the legislature determine, without giving a reason as is now required, that a tax increase or new tax is an "emergency" measure. It also moves up the date the "emergency" takes effect. This is a legislative reaction to the almost successful attempt to place a stadium tax on the ballot in this election.

Prop 100 is one more step in the gradual erosion of the Arizona Constitution, which tried to empowered the people through a variety of methods. Please note in the Secretary of State's publicity pamphlet on this issue that none of its supporters even wrote a ballot argument for it--they were hoping its complex and seemingly innocuous language would carry it. Give the Libertarians credit for catching it, and read their rather cogent negative response. Vote NO on Proposition 100

PROPOSITION 101 BRINGS back memories. I'll never forget a former partner of mine spending half a day with not one but two employees of the County Assessor's Office arguing about the value of some old desks and filing cabinets and other miscellaneous office equipment. The net result after several hours of haggling: a tax assessment of $7.

Proposition 101 would eliminate the business property, equipment and fixtures tax for the first $50,000 of full cash value. That's tax relief for small business, not the big guys. It means restaurants will no longer be taxed for their stoves and tables, accountants for their calculators and fax machines, and bookstores for their shelving units. And it will free up personnel to go look a little harder at big guys like legendary land speculator Don Diamond.

This one gives the mom-and-pop store a little help when they compete with Walmart.

Unfortunately, the Libertarians don't like Prop 101 it because it doesn't include big business; they say it's discriminatory to let small business off the hook. A YES vote is in order on Proposition 101, and the Libertarians be damned.

ALSO ON THE ballot is Proposition 300, which basically proves the saying, "If there's one thing you can count on a group of politicians to steadfastly work on, it's how to get themselves more money."

In Arizona, legislators cannot raise their own pay. They have to ask the voters first. They've figured out how to hide the fact they're doing the asking by appointing a commission consisting of other pols and lobbyists to make the recommendations for them. That the commission wants them to get more money was pre-ordained. It allows them to make this proposal with a straight face.

The chairman of that commission wrote the only ballot argument in favor of raising legislative pay from $15,000 to $24,000. He starts off by telling you California legislators earn $72,000. What he doesn't mention is that high salaries have worked so well over there that they have more former legislators doing prison time than Arizona had at the height of AzScam. Nor does he mention California's legislature is one of the most arrogant, isolated, and corrupt in the nation. Bigger pay doesn't mean better government, it just means the pols take bigger dives.

There's another dirty little secret the pro-Prop 300 folks don't mention--benefit packages. California's is obscene, ranging from free cars to burial plans. Arizona is headed in that direction.

While Arizona legislators can't raise their own pay, they can jack up their own benefits. They receive tax-free per diem when they're in session, as well as when they're doing any other legislative business. They get taxpayer-funded trips to conferences and don't stay in Motel 6. And they get double the retirement benefits of regular state employees. Those pensions are based on the last three years of service, which has a lot to do with why they're constantly increasing the pay for other state and county offices. Many legislators plan to run for those offices after term limits kick them out of the legislature. Even if they serve eight years at the current salary, they can vest a pension of more than $400 a month.

And remember--this is a part-time job. With bennies, it's worth about $30,000 a year now. That's above the per capita income for Pima County and the rest of Arizona for full-time employment. And face it, this isn't brain surgery or hard physical labor.

The worst argument for Prop 300 is that we'll suddenly get better people running if we just pay them more. Wrong! California and other states have already proved you get worse. You end up with a bunch of folks in public office who never made that much money in their lives and who run for that reason alone. Legislators are supposed to come from the people and they should have a life, and not be further isolated into a political class that lives better than the rest of us. Vote NO on Proposition 300.

FOR YEARS POLITICIANS of all persuasions have pandered on the crime issue with meaningless "feel-good" measures. Liberals tout shallow "gun buy-back" programs and "assault rifle bans" and support "omnibus crime bills" that only restrict civil liberties and move us closer to a police state.

Prop 102 is the conservative's turn. It's right-wing feel-good BS that moves us closer to a police state. In a blatant pander to the frightened, it mandates that juvenile offenders charged with murder, sexual assault or armed robbery be tried as adults. In almost every case, they are now. Occasionally a judge decides otherwise. Big deal.

If there's a judge whom prosecutors and the measure's major proponent, Gov. J. Fife Symington III, find too liberal, then they should inform the public so citizens can vote him or her out next time. Or Proposition 102 supporters should propose another constitutional amendment that goes back to electing our judges.

This proposition does nothing but increase the discretion of prosecutors and diminish the power of judges. It's a constitutional raid on the judicial branch by the executive and should be rejected for that reason alone.

It also makes all juvenile court records public. There are many juvenile thugs who get a clean slate on some pretty horrendous records when they turn 18. But this goes too far--its practical effect will be to screw a lot of kids out of employment and educational opportunities for having a minor bust.

And besides, adding all juvenile offenses beyond serious crimes to the list of crimes punishable as an adult simply isn't reasonable--another reason to vote NO on 102.

WAR IS THE health of the state. And the drug war is the health of the police state. Proposition 200 isn't what it seems--a giant liberalization of drug laws. It has some superficial features that make sense: Currently outlawed substances like Marijuana would become prescription drugs. Some cops are howling about that, apparently based on the logic that too many doctors are sleazebags.

But when you analyze who's paying for Prop 200, you get the real poop. This is nothing but a raid on the treasury by one component the drug war--the rehab lobby--on funding currently going to another--law enforcement. It's a lot like what happens when the Navy wants a new carrier while the Army wants a new tank.

Drug users have become a commodity used to justify funding. Prop 200 moves tax dollars away from cops and prisons and over to counselors and social workers. The user still gets a record and maybe softer punishment, but don't believe it'll save any tax money.

If you think that's a good idea, then vote YES. If you think Proposition 200 is just a pointless funding switch, then vote NO.

INDIAN GAMING SHOULD be controlled by passing a constitutional amendment stating the total number of slot machines in Arizona shall not exceed the total number of Native Americans. But Proposition 201 isn't about the merits of gaming, nor even Indian gaming.

Sixteen tribes have gaming compacts with the State of Arizona. There's five left without compacts, and they'd like a piece of the action, too. That seems fair enough.

Any future controls limiting Indian gaming should be applied uniformly, and the five tribes not in the action should be treated the same as the rest. A YES vote on Proposition 201 is the decent thing to do.

PROPOSITION 203 WOULD allocate more lottery money directly to health care. Good--the lottery has become little more than a funding vehicle for bureaucracy, advertising agencies and TV stations to pimp you to buy tickets. Payoffs to winners are way down the list.

When you walk into a candy store in Newark, N.J., and buy a number from Guido in the back room, you get a better deal. If you score, the mob pays in cash, no 20-year annuity, no tax man standing by. And you get better odds, usually off the same numbers. That's because besides an occasional enforcer, the mob doesn't have the overhead of a whole building full of bureaucrats and PR flacks and massive TV buys to cover.

Lottery funds should be used to benefit the general welfare. They're voluntary contributions from suckers who buy tickets. My daddy taught me not gamble--stick to poker and horses. Vote YES on 203.

WHEN THE CHARTER government concept began gathering steam, many of us were concerned the special interests would do in Pima County what they did in Maricopa--run a slate of candidates and dominate the proceedings. Those folks had a hidden agenda.

The good news is that didn't happen. Our Growth Lobby is considerably more inept than Maricopa's. The bad news is that we've now seen the real agendas of some of the 29 people who are running, and it seems we have a parade of wackos with their own ideas about how to structure county government. In many cases, they're even scarier than the special interest types, who were at least coherent.

The real problem with charter government is the way we're supposed to draft a charter. Twenty-nine people, most of them unknown and with no real constituencies, are running for 15 slots. In six months (in the heat of summer), we're supposed to approve or reject something they write; and their major input will come from a consultant and county staff hired by the current dysfunctional Pima County Board of Supervisors.

It's a blueprint for disaster.

Those who believe in county home rule should go back to the drawing board and find a more intelligent method to pick who tackles this very serious task. Send it back to committee by voting NO on Proposition 400. TW

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