By Martha Dina Argüello

The oil, tobacco and liquor industries put Proposition 26 on the ballot to protect themselves from paying for the damage their businesses cause and to shift those costs to taxpayers.  That’s just the beginning.  Proposition 26 is so extreme, and deeply flawed, that it must be overwhelmingly rejected.

First, Prop 26 would immediately increase the state deficit by $1 billion, and would cost “billions in revenue annually,” says the impartial Legislative Analyst.  The initiative was so poorly written that it would overturn a provision in the budget that saves California $1 billion annually for ten years without increasing anyone’s taxes – harming schools, health, and public safety, and worsening the budget deficit.  Another legislative analysis found Prop 26 could facilitate tax cheating and tax avoidance.  Let’s not write such mistakes into our Constitution.

Second, Prop 26 would handcuff our cities and counties by interfering with normal operations and damaging essential services.  The proponents say this would protect the ordinary fees for garbage and parks, but it doesn’t – your garbage bill could still increase.  Prop 26 does take away the ability to levy fees on companies to clean up their pollution and health hazards and promote public safety.

The supporters’ own documents say that ordinary fees such as those on a cable company to dig up streets would become taxes, approval of which would be subject to a costly election with local taxpayers footing the bill.  Additionally, simple things, like requiring sports and music promoters to pay fees for additional police and traffic control, would also need a costly special election.  The same would apply to a pipeline safety fee, and required pollution abatement, or noise mitigation by airlines.

Local governments and communities can’t and should not  bear the expense and ongoing consequences of pollution and other negative impacts of business activities on public health, resources and our environment.  Don’t be fooled: Proposition 26 would shift costs from the businesses that do damage to already overburdened taxpayers.

Third, the measure says that a fee on a company to pay for the costs they impose on the public would be reclassified as a tax, making it very difficult to recoup those costs.  The proponents provide examples of situations where they could avoid financial responsibility:  fees on oil companies to pay for oil spill response, fees on hazardous waste generators for clean-up, or fees on tobacco companies to pay for health impacts of their products.  Under Prop 26 any charge for cleaning up pollution would become a tax increase, which enough politicians oppose that making polluters pay would be impossible.  That’s the “polluter protection” scheme at the heart of Proposition 26.  This measure protects polluters from having to pay for cleaning up their own mess.

Phillip Morris, Chevron and the alcohol industry put in millions to pass Prop 26.  What are they buying for this money?  Abdication of their financial responsibilities and increased profits at the expense of the taxpayer. Most of our environmental protection programs are based on fees on polluters, not on tax dollars. Latinos  are more likely to be exposed to pollution from manufacturing plants than any other ethnic or racial group in southern California. Do we want polluters who are hurting our health to get away with not paying for their own clean up? No .

Finally, opposition to Prop 26 has the broadest base imaginable:  major environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club and the Planning and Conservation League; the public health community like  the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society and Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles police and firefighters, including the California Association of Highway Patrol; the League of Women Voters and Equality California; Republicans, Democrats, the faith community and education groups — the opponents come from all corners of California.  Visit NoOnProposition26.com for more information on the many reasons to vote No on 26.