In the 2005 film Thank You For Smoking, a group of lobbyists for the tobacco, alcohol and gun industries jokingly refer to themselves as the “MOD Squad”—shorthand for “Merchants of Death.” At the end of the film the MOD Squad grows to include lobbyists for fast food, hazardous waste and oil.
The list of donors to Proposition 26 — which will appear on the November 2010 ballot — reads eerily like a roster for the MOD Squad. Major players in the tobacco, alcohol, soda and oil industries have poured millions of dollars into Prop. 26. Some of the biggest donors are Chevron, Philip Morris and various beer and wine makers.
At first glance, Prop 26 doesn’t read like an initiative that multi-national corporations would care much about. The initiative broadens the definition of a tax to include fees—which would raise the votes required to approve a fee from a majority to two-thirds at the state and local level.
So why do these companies care about Prop 26? It turns out that the fees that Prop 26 targets are the fees that oil, tobacco, alcohol and hazardous waste companies have to pay for the damage they cause. Right now, fees on corporations pay for the damage their products do to the health, environment, safety and quality of life of Californians.
If companies make products that have the potential to pollute our air and water, damage our health or are just plain hazardous, then they should pay to clean up the mess. Proposition 26 would make it harder to impose those fees, effectively shifting the burden of paying for the costs created by polluters to taxpayers like you and me.
And the cost of that clean-up is huge. The non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office states that Prop 26 would cost state and local governments “up to billions of dollars annually” blowing a hole in the state’s shaky budget. That means if there is an oil spill off the coast of California, the cost of cleaning up that spill will come out of taxpayer funds—draining money away from priorities like schools, roads and public safety.
It is clear from the list of donors to Proposition 26 that the companies that pay fees in California are not hurting. The funders behind Prop 26 are multi-national corporations that have $2 million on hand to spend on a state ballot measure. They can certainly afford to pay a fee to clean up the waste and pollution they produce. On the other hand, California taxpayers cannot afford to subsidize major corporations whose products damage our health, environment and communities.
For more information, visit http://www.noonproposition26.com/