Right On: Amendments, propositions and a school bond

Composite image, St. George News

OPINION — With midterm elections looming, voters’ attention naturally focuses on congressional, state and local contests. It’s easy to ignore the propositions, amendments and bond issues on the ballot until we get to the voting booth or we’re completing our mail-in ballots.

With that in mind, here are my choices on these ballot issues.

FOR Amendment A. This one’s a slam dunk. In 2012, voters approved a property tax exemption for active duty military personnel who are ordered out of state for 200 days in a calendar year.

Oops. That means if they were out of state for 199 days in one year followed by one day in the next, they got no exemption. This change would allow the exemption if they served out of state for 200 days in any 365-day period.

AGAINST Amendment B. If approved, the state would no longer pay property taxes to local governments like cities and schools on buildings it leases.

In Utah, these local entities are guaranteed revenue equal to that received in the previous year. That would mean that if the state decides to lease a building in Hurricane and no longer pays property taxes, rates go up for the rest of us in the city and county. The more offices the state puts in your town, the higher your property taxes.

This bad idea was rejected by voters a few years ago. I’m against it now.

FOR Amendment C. This amendment allows the Legislature to convene itself for a limited session. If you value the constitutional concept of separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, you’re for this one.

Today, the governor decides unilaterally whether to convene the Legislature for such a session. That gives the executive branch unwarranted power over a separate branch of government. Imagine a governor of one party and a legislative majority of the other.

I’m for independent branches of government.

FOR Question #1. This one asks what we think about raising gasoline taxes to fund roads and education.

Yeah, yeah, I know a conservative like me is supposed to oppose any and all taxes. Road users pay gas taxes; income and sales tax payers might or might not. Let road users pay for roads.

As for increasing education funding, Utah students compare well with those of other states. But this is no excuse to underfund education and take advantage of Utah’s dedicated teachers. Our growing tech industry depends on hiring well-educated employees. I’m for Question #1 to keep that ball rolling.

AGAINST Proposition #2. I’ve spoken loud and clear against this pathway to recreational marijuana. Stop pretending that this one is all about relieving the suffering of those with debilitating illnesses. There are far better and safer ways to help them and you know it.

AGAINST Proposition #3. We’ve all received mailers promoting “Prop 3.” The claims made are misleading at best, just plain wrong in other cases.

This Medicaid expansion would add beneficiaries whose income exceeds today’s cutoff. Think about it: There will always be those who just miss any benefit cutoff point. Why should the last one in get benefits while the first one left out does not?

The mailers argue that Proposition #3 “rewards hard work.” Translation: once a family’s income exceeds Medicaid’s threshold, benefits cease. This measure would establish a higher threshold. Expect its supporters to come back in a year or two with the same argument about the new threshold. That line of reasoning would end only when all Americans are covered by Medicaid.

Proponents also argue that we “get back $9 for every dollar spent.” Federal Medicaid funding will be cut back when fiscal reality hits home on this fastest-growing of all runaway entitlements. If we sign on, we’ll be left holding the bag. Every state that has fallen into this trap is now in financial difficulty.

The mailers claim Proposition #3 will “generate $1.7 billion in economic growth and create 14,000 jobs.” If you believe that line, then Obamacare must have created hundreds of billions in economic growth and millions of jobs. But it didn’t.

Government spending redistributes your tax dollars; it never “creates” growth. The promised 14,000 jobs will be redistributed from somewhere else, not “created.”

Because of heart-rending stories like those shown on the mailers, there will always be massive pressure to expand entitlement programs. We have to draw the line somewhere.

Our Legislature approved a more modest expansion earlier this year. I trust them when they warn us about Proposition #3’s “skyrocketing costs.”

Instead, let’s get able-bodied Medicaid recipients back to work.  I’m against Proposition #3.

FOR Proposition #4. My support for this one will disappoint diehard partisans. If approved, a bipartisan commission would recommend statewide redistricting plans. The state Legislature would still have the final say.

Utah’s Republican-dominated Legislature has gerrymandered our congressional districts to ensure we have four Republican congressional representatives.

Salt Lake County is divided between all four congressional districts. My son and his family live in eastern Salt Lake City. They’re in our congressional district here in Southern Utah. Does that make any sense?

In effect, elected officials are choosing their voters. It should be the other way around.

I believe a Salt Lake County-centered congressional district would far better represent that urban area’s interests. Sure, it might trend Democratic. The remaining three districts would trend reliably Republican. That mix would be a better balance for all Utah’s voters.

I’m for fairness on this one: vote for Proposition #4.

FOR Washington County School District Special Bond. Critics call the Iron County School District’s bond “a blank check that lacks accountability.” Not so in Washington County. The district has provided a detailed list of exactly what it plans to do with bond money. And since existing school bonds are being paid off, the new bonds will not increase property taxes.

The fastest growing city in the country has to build schools. Stick with the kids on this one. I’m for the Washington County School District’s bond.

Howard Sierer is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: hsierer@stgeorgeutah.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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7 Comments

  • iceplant October 25, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    “AGAINST Proposition #2. I’ve spoken loud and clear against this pathway to recreational marijuana. Stop pretending that this one is all about relieving the suffering of those with debilitating illnesses. There are far better and safer ways to help them and you know it.”

    LOL
    Okay, Mr. Know-It-All. Let’s hear YOUR definition of “far better and safer ways.” Really. Spell it out. I dare you.
    Oh, that’s right. You can’t. Because you have zero bases for your claims. NONE. Only hearsay and LIES told to you by your church. You just throw out your tired old opinion and expect everyone to take you at your word. Unbelievable.
    Tell me, champ… what are you gonna do when this passes? Because it will. And you better get ready for that. Are you going to throw a fit or will you respect the will of the voters? Because the will of the voters wants this PASSED. And wanted it passed years ago.

    I’m comfortable knowing I voted the right way during this election. Which is to say the exact opposite of this… piece.

    • iceplant October 25, 2018 at 4:05 pm

      That should read zero basis. Not bases. Stupid auto-correct.

      • KR567 October 25, 2018 at 5:46 pm

        LOL …your comfortable knowing you voted the right way… well thats your opinion

        • Happy Commenter October 25, 2018 at 8:40 pm

          Would you expect any less from the venerable frozen vegetable? Asparagus this week!

  • LocalTourist October 25, 2018 at 3:48 pm

    Howard, you’re so myopic you’d consider my reply “a pathway to recreational marijuana” because it has that nasty “m” word in it.
    It’s about as recreational as your pickle ball skills.

  • beacon October 25, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    I was leaning toward a pro vote on the school bond until I read the school district’s mailing that shows the Planned Bond Projects. Looks like a “wish” list to me not a need list and doesn’t seem to be tied directly to education of our kids. Carpeted hallways? Really? All new phone systems? Are the old ones really that out of date and unusable? Electronic marquees? And the list goes on and on. Looks more like make work and money for local businesses. It’s all facility wishes and many don’t appear to really be needed. I’ll be voting no on the bond issue.

  • McMurphy October 26, 2018 at 8:25 am

    “a pathway to recreational marijuana” Nonsense. Utah is not Colorado or Nevada and certainly not California or any other state where recreational marijuana is legal. As long as the state is 65% LDS and the legislature is 90% plus LDS recreational marijuana is not going to become legal.

    We should vote FOR Prop 2. While a lot of the heavy hitters in the state have endorsed the compromise there is no assurance the legislature will enact it. If Prop 2 should fail the legislature may well decide that the “will of the people” is for no medical cannabis and therefore no legislation for it,

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