Prop Debrief: Proposition 30

Proposition 30 lost in the polls last Tuesday, and here’s why.

If Prop 30 had passed, it would have raised taxes on the top 2% of Californians—those who earn an annual salary of over 2 million dollars—in order to fund wildfire response and relief, as well as to support zero-emission vehicles like electric cars and buses. 

This proposition was suggested in response to the increased rates of wildfires in California, which has experienced all ten of its worst years since 2004 in terms of the amount of acreage burned annually. Given rising temperatures and lower rates of rainfall in California, the climate has become increasingly drier and more prone to fires, which may displace thousands of people. In the long term, an increase in tax revenue to support the containment of these fires would lead to fewer taxes from families and businesses directly spent to rebuild after their properties are destroyed.

Electric vehicles, of course, also contribute to the slowing of climate change. This proposition hypothetically would have created a “statewide charging network” for these earth-friendly vehicles and would have helped more people to afford them. Though fuel savings narrow the gap in price, electric vehicles cost more up front, and many people don’t have the confidence or funds to invest in one.

Cost was another reason why Prop 30 didn’t pass. Voters saw the phrase “$90 billion [raise in taxes] for up to 20 years” and decided against the proposition. And honestly, it’s a valid reason. The cost of living in California is exceptionally high and has only grown in the past years. It’s one of the main causes for the high homelessness rates, as well as  population decline. For the first time in 2020, the population level actually dropped instead of grew. This trend has continued, with up to an estimated 650,000 people migrating out of California in 2021. California, like New York, is simply becoming too costly to live in. Home prices have increased by $669,000 (compared to places like Texas where inflation has only led to a $220,000 change), and that’s not even mentioning rising gas prices, utility bills and electricity bills. Many middle class people just cannot afford to live here anymore, and many higher income people choose not to.

And with regard to high income earners—if this proposition would have passed, it’s likely that even more people, especially those in the top 2% that were to be taxed, would move out of California. Though the tax would originally be for the rich, with promised “strict accountability, audits [and] penalties” according to the Official Voter Information Guide, it would raise taxes for every Californian. A state already on the cusp of unaffordability would become just that: unaffordable. 

In the long term, perhaps the proposition could help California slow the effects of climate change, but in the short term, it would increase prices on people who can’t afford for prices to be increased. And people will always vote for the short term.