Capitol Journal: Need guidance at the ballot box Tuesday? Here are four final takeaways to help you cast your vote

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks during a press conference opposing Prop 53 at the United Firefighters Headquarters in Los Angeles.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Here are some final mumblings before this distressing election is mercifully concluded.

Yes, practically everything to be said already has been repeatedly. But not quite everything.

1. Gov. Jerry Brown has been out there in TV ads, robo-calls and campaign appearances fibbing about a ballot measure that has him panicked.

It’s Proposition 53, which would require statewide voter approval of any government project financed with more than $2 billion in state revenue bonds.


They’re bonds repaid by a project’s users, such as water bill payers in the case of Brown’s proposed monster twin tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. That’s a $15.5-billion project.

Brown is worried that Proposition 53 would collapse the water tunnels and also his sorely underfunded, $64-billion Los Angeles-to-San Francisco bullet train project. It’s tens of billions of dollars short and a potential revenue bond is the only savior in sight.

So what’s the fib? Brown has been telling voters “53 takes away local control” and also “increases the cost of roads, bridges and hospitals.”

The “local control” pitch is just bunkum.

There never has been much, if any, local control over such a massive project. Local projects just aren’t that expensive. Anyway, Proposition 53 is about state — not local — bonds. The measure defines the affected projects as those “financed, owned, operated or managed by the state.”

“‘State’ means the State of California,” the measure spells out plainly, although the state could partner with a local entity. State, the proposal’s text continues, “does not include a city, county … school district, community college district or special district.” The University of California also isn’t affected.

In the Brown-financed opposition TV ads, there’s a guy dressed in a firefighter’s uniform. What’s that about? Nobody’s going to need a statewide vote to douse a brush or house fire. When there’s a major natural disaster, repairs are mostly paid for by the federal government.


Highway construction? It’s usually funded through general obligation bonds — which long have required voter approval — and are repaid with gasoline taxes.

Updates from Sacramento »

When Brown warns about 53 jacking up the tab for roads, bridges and hospitals, it’s hyperbole. The state doesn’t even build hospitals, except for prisons.

One more thing: Brown must be listening to Donald Trump too much. Last week he told a high-powered San Francisco breakfast crowd that his corgi dog had told him to “pee on 53.”


Cute. At least the governor is getting off Latin.

2. Just as I was about to vote against Proposition 61, which would lower the state’s cost for prescription drugs, I noticed that pharmaceutical companies were spending an astronomical $109 million fighting it.

If the drug companies are spending this much money, that indicates they’re very worried about their future profits. And that means Proposition 61 could ultimately help us consumers.

The measure is sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is being heavily outgunned. The “yes” campaign has spent about $17 million.


Proposition 61 would forbid state agencies from paying more for a drug than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which traditionally gets the best deals. The state buys pharmaceuticals for current and retired state employees, prisoners and poor people. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is a big booster of 61.

Opponents, including many veterans, contend the drug companies would merely make up for their state revenue loss by boosting prices for everyone else.

They’d undoubtedly try. But that argument is reminiscent of businesses always claiming that any tax increases on them would just be passed on to consumers. The truth is it’s not that easy. That’s why there are hordes of lobbyists in Sacramento and Washington fighting business tax hikes.

Proposition 61 might just be the tool to start forcing down prescription drug prices for everyone. And that’s why the pharmaceutical companies are spending obscenely to scuttle it.


3. It seems counterintuitive and cockeyed that Californians are on the verge of discouraging cigarette smoking by dramatically raising the tobacco tax while encouraging pot smoking by legalizing it.

Proposition 56 would raise the cigarette tax by $2 per pack in an effort to make smoking unaffordable for the poorest. Smoking does cause cancer.

Proposition 64 would legalize marijuana for getting zonked and set off a stampede of weed marketers. Studies have shown that too much pot is bad for brain cells, especially among young people.

Don’t bother mentioning that you’d have to be 21 to legally buy cannabis. More and more kids are going to toke up.


Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper made sense last week when he advised other states to “go slowly and probably wait a couple of years” to see how legalization goes in his state. Find out, he urged, whether there’s a dramatic rise in teen toking and stoned driving.

4. It was eye-opening to read a Field poll last week on the presidential race in California. Hillary Clinton led by a whopping 20 points. But Donald Trump was favored by 16 points among born-again Christians. What?

Trump’s demeanor is far from the Christian-like behavior I was taught in Sunday school.

Actually, Trump has been reminding me of fictional gubernatorial candidate Willie Stark — a Louisiana Huey Long knockoff — in the novel and movie “All the King’s Men.”


Demagogue Stark pledges to do this to his political enemies once elected: “Nail ’em up.” Trump vows to arrest Clinton, drawing chants from supporters of “Lock her up.”

But Stark spoke the political truth about this: “If ya don’t vote, ya don’t matter.”

Follow @LATimesSkelton on Twitter



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10:15 a.m.: This article was updated to reflect the bullet train project is tens of billions of dollars short of funds.

This article was originally published at 11:55 a.m.