Pima County voting

The Arizona Daily Star Editorial Board is not offering endorsements on any of the propositions this year, so I thought I would take it upon myself to offer a quick guide about the seven general ballot initiatives in Tucson.

That may be too ambitious, though, since distilling some of these propositions down to their essence results in what may read as word salad to many of us (I’m looking at you, Proposition 125).

With that in mind, I’ve included a too-long, didn’t-read version (TL,DR) that really cuts to the chase. If you require a still-too-long, didn’t-read version, just trust me and follow the big YES or NO at the end — I promise not to steer you wrong.

Here we go:

Prop 125

Prop. 125 amends the state constitution to adjust benefits for corrections officers and elected officials. It changes the current permanent benefit increase formula to a cost-of-living adjustment based on the Consumer Price Index. That increase if capped at 2 percent each year.

On its face, Prop. 125 can be seen as taking money away from people who retired to a hard-earned pension — and that’s because it does … sort of. The new adjustment can never go over 2 percent, which the formula it seeks to replace can, but it is a guaranteed increased tied to inflation instead of the current system, which depends on investment returns. More importantly, the current formula makes the retirement plan unsustainable.

TL,DR: The proposal passed the Legislature unanimously, is expected to save Arizonans $275 million long-term and help keep the system running while continuing to honor current obligations. Prop. 125: YES

Prop 126

Prop. 126 amends the state constitution to prohibit state and local governments from passing any new or increased tax on services. Proponents say the state does not impose a broad sales tax on services now, but that doesn’t mean it won’t. And taxes are bad, bad, very, very bad. Bad.

This is a wrongheaded proposal. The Legislature has reduced taxes to the tune of $4 billion over the last 25 years, according to the centrist Grand Canyon Institute, and we wonder why there’s no money to pay for education or much-needed infrastructure — or to better weather economic downturns. Even if you are against taxes, this proposition simply shifts the burden to consumers of services from consumers of goods.

TL,DR: It already takes a two-thirds majority of the Legislature to pass any tax increase (or a ballot measure). There is no need to amend the constitution for this. Prop. 126: NO

Prop 127

Prop. 127 — The Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona amendment would change the state’s current renewable energy plan (15 percent from renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind by 2025) to 50 percent by 2030.

Do I think a constitutional amendment is the best way to do this? No. Do I think it’s the only way this will get done in Arizona? Yes. Prop. 127 will force the state’s utilities into the 21st century and limit the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity. It will even incentivize rooftop solar installation (there is a percentage requirement in the initiative). All of this will help do our part to reduce climate change and improve our environment long-term.

Now, will this mean we pay more for electricity? Probably, but not in the way the Seidman Research Institute at ASU claims. Paid for by Arizona Public Service, its “analysis” found that electric bills would go up almost $2,000 a year. Our own utility, Tucson Electric Power, found a more modest $400 increase.

I believe that the more renewable energy sources are adopted, the cheaper they will be and the more they will improve (it helps to force people to innovate). In the meantime, I know many of us are willing to pay more per month to reach Prop. 127’s goal. I also hope that we are just as willing to help low-income families if their electric bills increase.

TL,DR: It’s good for the environment! Prop. 127: YES

Prop 305

Prop. 305 was put on the ballot by the group Save Our Schools to stop the Legislature’s effort to expand Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, which give money to cover tuition and other school-related expenses for private or home schooling. A "yes" vote upholds SB 1431 and the expansion, a "no" vote would keep ESAs limited to students with special needs. 

TL,DR: This is an easy one. ESAs are vouchers by another name. A vote in favor of Prop. 305 would take public money and give it to private and parochial schools and continue to damage our public-school system. Prop. 305: NO

Prop 306

Prop. 306 is a tricky one. The first part sounds good: It would prohibit candidates who receive public funding to finance their campaigns from passing that money along to a political party or tax-exempt organization. The second part is bad: It would make the independent Citizens Clean Elections Commission fall under the purview of a committee packed with political appointees.

TL,DR: A naked power grab to weaken the Citizens Clean Elections Commission and its ability to enforce campaign finance laws. Prop. 306: NO

Prop 407 

Prop. 407 asks voters to approve $225 million in bonds that would be used to improve city parks as well as pedestrian and bicycle pathways.

The big selling point here is not only an improvement to city parks but also that, through the magic of financing, there is no increase to the city’s secondary property tax rate. If passed, Prop. 407 will allow the city to make improvements to 100 city parks, including new playgrounds, splash pads, sports field and courts, according to Mayor Jonathan Rothschild.

TL,DR: You like nice parks, right? Prop. 407: YES

Prop 408

Prop. 408 would change local elections from odd years to even years and extended the terms of current mayor and council for one year. So, what’s this about? The Legislature has been trying for years to get this done, with Tucson going to court (and winning) to protect its ability to run its elections when it wants to.

Word around the campfire is the Legislature wants this because more people vote during presidential elections, and Arizona being a Republican state, they wager that more Republican voters in the state means more municipalities will be pushed their way.

Opponents say that local elections will get lost in the shuffle, not only in the conversation but that they’ll literally be all the bottom of the ballot where they may not get the attention they deserve. Mayor Rothschild, who is against it, said it will also be one more thing where the Legislature is telling Arizona cities what they can and cannot do.

TL;DR: Let’s leave well enough alone. Prop. 408: No.

Prop 463

Prop. 463 asks voters to allow Pima County to issue $430 million in bonds to fix roads throughout the county.

The proposition is not perfect, as it would only address significant repairs while ignoring less-expensive preservation efforts for roads in better condition, but it would at least continue to put a dent in the almost $2 billion needed to bring every road in the area to excellent condition — and, like the parks bond, it will not increase property taxes.

TL,DR: You like good roads, right? Prop. 463: YES

Luis F. Carrasco is an editorial writer at the Star. Email him at lcarrasco@tucson.com