California's June 5 Presidential Election Primary may be relatively moot for Menlo Park voters, since it now appears presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has a lock on the Republican nomination, to face off against President Barack Obama in November.
However, two statewide measures will be included on the June ballot; one adds $1.00 to the cost of a pack of cigarettes, the other limits the term of new legislators heading to Sacramento to 12 years, down from the present 14.
Most controversial is the battle over Proposition 29, already being fought on television sets and radio channels around the state and here in San Mateo County.
It imposes an additional tax on cigarettes to fund additional cancer research.
"It's a do-good thing," says Gene Mullin, a public policy consultant. "You want to stop cancer, and you want to stop smoking, particularly with youngsters. By increasing the cost of cigarettes it's going to dissuade many youngsters from starting."
According to the California Secretary of State website, Prop 29:
"Imposes an additional five cent tax on each cigarette distributed ($1.00 per pack), and an equivalent tax increase on other tobacco products, to fund cancer research and other specified purposes. It would create a nine-member committee charged with administering the fund."
Where those tax funds - estimated by a legislative analyst to be about $855 million annually by 2011-12 - would ultimately end up is a source of contention for many. It's unclear how much, if any, of the nearly $1 trillion would stay in California. The analyst does believe there would be an increase in state and local sales taxes of about $32 million annually. The money would not, however, infuse the state's general fund.
As expected, large tobacco companies are already campaigning to defeat Prop 29, saying the measure is "a flawed and poorly drafted measure." A website funded primarily by Phillip Morris USA and the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, readforyourself.org, claims the measure "shortchanges schools, creates massive overhead, permits conflicts of interest, and has no accountability."
Californiansforacure.org, with major funding provided by the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the American Cancer Society of California, says large tobacco companies will "say, do, and spend anything to deceive Californians about Prop 29."
A link to the so-called "Seven Dwarves" testimony is included on their site. (That link is also provided within this story for you.) The YouTube video is recorded testimony given to Congress in April 1994 by seven major tobacco executives where each essentially proclaimed "I believe that nicotine is not addictive."
"It's a ballot box issue, and I just think increases like that should come out of the legislature, and be more broadly applied, as opposed to just 'carve-outs' for different issues," says Mullin, a retired state assemblyman. "I'll probably vote for it, since the benefits outweight the detriments, but it's a lousy way to run a railroad by doing all these initiatives for tax measures that are pretty complicated."
What do you think? Are you in favor of taxing cigarette smokers an additional $1 per pack to fund continued cancer research? Is this a poorly written proposition, as big tobacco contends, with monies collected most likely heading out of state? Vote in our poll below and let us know. And send us your comments.