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Our View: Prop. 29 too aimless; lacks oversight

Posted: May 18, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 18, 2012 1:55 a.m.
 

What Californians do not need is another bureaucratic board full of political appointees at taxpayer expense. We urge voters to say no to Proposition 29.

In theory, Proposition 29 sounds good. It imposes a “sin tax” of $1 on every package of cigarettes purchased by smokers. The intent of the bill is to fund research and facilities focused on preventing, treating and curing cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other tobacco-related disease.

If passed, taxes also will rise on other tobacco products, such as cigars, because existing state law requires the Board of Equalization to annually tax other products at an amount equal to the tax on cigarettes.

The proponents of this proposition tell voters that the opposition is funded by the big, bad tobacco companies — and for the most part, we agree it is. But when we looked beyond who is financing both sides of the proposition, we had another set of concerns.

We’re all for finding cures for cancer and encouraging more healthful lifestyles. Where we find fault with Proposition 29 is that it creates another statewide spending mandate and creates a new nine-member committee to administer the fund.

Opponents claim $125 million of the new taxes raised will be spent annually on overhead costs, buildings and real estate and bureaucracy. In our minds, that is $125 million too much, and it’s money that should be devoted exclusively to cancer prevention and treatment.

Yet, actually treating people stricken by cancer is not a part of this proposition. The tax dollars raised are only to fund research and research buildings. Tax dollars may even go to for-profit corporations engaged in research activities.

Another problem we have is with the dilution of funds raised. Under the proposal, only 60 percent of the taxpayer dollars will go to research.

Fifteen percent will be used as grants and loans to build and lease research buildings, with another 20 percent to be allocated to Department of Public Health tobacco prevention and cessation programs. State agencies will receive 3 percent of the tax dollars to combat tobacco-related crimes, and 2 percent will pay for the costs of administering the measure.

This proposition doesn’t make sense. More sin taxes have probably been levied against tobacco products than any other guilty pleasure. Product users are a convenient target because most people can agree smoking is bad. But an inefficient and wasteful bureaucratic structure like the one that this proposition will set up is also bad.

The opposition calls Proposition 29 the high-speed “train to nowhere,” and we agree. Vote no on Proposition 29.

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