Other Things to Watch Tuesday Night

While most of the attention during vote counting tomorrow night will be on the House and Senate races and what they mean for Trump, it is worth keeping your eye out for a lot of things on the state and local level.

Washington state has another carbon tax initiative on the ballot, Initiative 1631, to fight global warming. It really amounts mostly to a new tax on gasoline (eventually rising to more than 50 cents a gallon), since Washington gets about 70 percent of its electricity from carbon-free nuclear and hydropower. So drivers of evil internal combustion engine cars will bear the brunt of it. A previous carbon tax initiative went down to defeat a couple years back because the left opposedit, on the insane grounds that it didn’t increase government spending enough and reward key leftist constituency groups. I haven’t looked at the details of the new measure, but I am sure the “defects” of the previous proposal have been remedied to the left’s satisfaction. (I’ll just add that in a world filled with intellectual midgets in public office, Washington Governor Jay Inslee has a firm grasp on the lowest rung.)

Keep a close eye also on Colorado, where there are two energy-related ballot initiatives to watch. One, Proposition 112, aims to shut down fracking for oil and gas production on private land, while Amendment 74 (“Amendment” instead of Proposituion because it would change the state constitution) would require compensation to private landowners when regulation reduces the value of their land. Polls show 112 is close, but 74 passing. Amendment 74 is a straight up “takings” measure, and it doesn’t meant the government can’t regulate; it just means the government needs to weigh costs and benefits more carefully, and only impose those regulations that pass a cost-benefit test. Liberals love regulation because you supposedly get good things for “free,” by imposing their entire cost on a private party.

California has its usual mix of good and bad propositions. Proposition 6 would roll back the last gasoline tax increase (12 cents a gallon for gasoline, 20 cents a gallon for diesel) that Jerry Brown rammed through the state legislature (and also require a vote of the people for any future gas tax hike), and with gasoline prices in California approaching $5 a gallon in some locations, I think it has a decent chance of passing, since even—especially—low income Democratic voters drive a lot in California, and see no good reason why gasoline should cost over $1 a gallon more than most other states ($2 more than some states).

And what does California’s high cost of housing most need to help? How about rent control? Proposition 10 would open the door to extending rent control throughout the state. Right now, a state law sensibly restricts local rent control on new construction. If Prop. 10 passes, you may as well give up all hope for California. Not that it has much hope now. Incidentally, Bernie Sanders has endorsed Prop. 10. Isn’t that all you need to know?

Prop. 10 isn’t California’s only madness on the ballot. San Francisco’s Measure C would impose a gross receipts tax on large businesses to help pay for more “homeless services”—some $300 million worth. Because I guess San Francisco just doesn’t have enough homeless people living on the streets right now, and wants to have even more. Here’s the funny thing: it is said that there are 7,500 homeless on the streets of San Francisco right now. $300 million comes to $40,000 per homeless person. (And the city already spends near that figure now.) Um, isn’t there something beyond absurd about this figure? Why don’t we just buy each one of them first class airfare to somewhere else, throw in a used car, and save at least $10,000 for, maybe, filling potholes? Or educating potheads, I don’t care. So many things have gone to pot in California that it wouldn’t really matter what you spend the money on.

Around the country there are several states with initiatives to expand Medicaid, and take advantage of supposedly “free money” from Washington DC. This is a trap: Medicaid is eating state budgets alive. If voters turn away these measures, it will be a sign that people understand that expanding welfare programs won’t work out very well for them.

The governor’s races around the country should be followed. The GOP is certain to lose ground here, just because of the natural cycle of voters wanting to switch up teams after a while. Keep your eye out especially on Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Nevada, and Wisconsin, where Scott Walker is in a tight race for a third term. In Illinois, Rauner is a goner. I think California’s governor’s race between Gavin Newsom and John Cox will be closer than people think. I sense that there isn’t that much enthusiasm for Newsom once you get outside the Bay Area, and I can imagine even some Democratic voters thinking it might be good to have a Republican as a check on a runaway leftist legislature.

I have it on good authority that Jerry Brown actually can’t stand Newsom, and privately thinks he’s going to be a terrible governor. I know this will strike many readers as perverse or out to lunch, but Jerry Brown, for all his certified nuttiness, is the only thing that has kept California’s leftist legislature in check, as he has vetoed a lot of crazy laws (though sadly not all), and has actually restrained spending to some extent. Newsom will have no such restraint, as he looks to build a progressive base to run for president in 2020 or 2024. It is possible, though, that if he crashes and burns, we could have another recall election as happened after Gray Davis crashed and burned in 2002. Though I’ll repeat what I’ve been saying for a long time: California is so nutty that it deserves a governor named Gavin.

Maybe the most interesting governor race to watch is Oregon, where Knute Buehler has a decent shot at becoming the first Republican governor in 40 years. I had dinner with Buehler a year or so ago, and he strikes me as just the kind of Republican who could appeal to independent voters in Oregon. He is low key (a doctor by profession), moderate on social issues which fits Oregon’s electorate, and is the ideal vehicle for suburban voters dismayed at how out of control Portland has become. Buehler has done one very shrewd thing: in a state where Trump is unpopular, he has eschewed the national spotlight, and has discouraged out-of-state press coverage. I know of at least one conservative national journalist who was going to write about Buehler, but Buehler’s campaign said thanks, but no thanks. Think of this as borrowing Tip O’Neill’s advice: all politics is local. Quite a contrast with “Beto” O’Rourke, who is much more interesting in becoming a national liberal celebrity than in actually winning the Texas Senate race.

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