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Thomas Gallatin / November 12, 2020

Californians Reject More Socialism

Down-ballot referendums to impose greater government control fail to gain voter support.

California residents voted for Joe Biden for president two to one over President Donald Trump, which isn’t the least bit surprising in a state that has long been dominated by Democrats. However, something unexpected did happen in down-ballot voting, as a majority of Golden State voters effectively put the brakes on the Left’s socialism train. At least for the immediate future, the Left’s dreams of a Cali-Venezuela have been put on hold.

Included on the ballot were three referendums. Prop. 15 would have partially eliminated the state’s 1978 Prop. 13 limit on increasing property taxes, thereby allowing for commercial properties to be taxed above the 1% cap of assessed market value. Prop. 21 would have allowed for local governments to enact rent controls, including the freezing of rent costs. Finally, Prop. 22 would exempt gig workers, like Uber and Lyft drivers, from the state’s AB5 law, allowing them to be classified as private contractors rather than employees of those companies.

Voters rejected both Props. 15 and 21, while Prop 22 easily passed with over 58% of the vote. All of these results were big wins for the free market and individual rights, delivering blows to organized labor and the Democrats’ desire for higher taxes and greater top-down control.

Despite the fact that both Biden and Kamala Harris, one of California’s two senators, endorsed Prop. 15, voters were discerning enough to recognize that it only amounted to yet another tax hike, and they said no thanks. As Rob Lapsley, co-chair of No on Prop 15, contended, “From day one, we knew that if voters understood the harm this deeply flawed tax hike would impose on California’s economy and its families, farmers and small businesses, voters would reject this ill-advised effort.”

Meanwhile, rent-controlling Prop 21, which had the backing of Bernie Sanders, was rejected by the nearly 60% of Californians who are economically savvy enough to recognize the cost-saving fallacy behind rent controls. In the midst of a housing crisis, the last thing Californians need is fewer available rentals, which price controls produce by limiting capital and diminishing incentives for the construction of new apartments and homes. They’ve seen rent control “work” in San Francisco, and they don’t like it.

Finally, with the passage of Prop. 22, more Californians will be free to work and earn income on the side as Uber drivers or Grubhub deliverers. As usual, unions decried Prop. 22 for paying “starvation wages,” but the truth is that the vast majority of gig workers are not relying on a single contract job as their only source of income. The real reason behind the unions’ objection to Prop. 22 was that it opens the door to the free market by allowing competition to step on their turf.

In any case, given the bellwether the Golden State often is on various issues, it’s good to see that even voters in the one-party People’s Republic of California won’t pass every socialist dream.

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