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LAist Guide to the Primary: Propositions 94, 95, 96, 97

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There are less than two weeks to go until OMG Tuesday!, when almost half of America will likely decide on what Democratic nominee will butt heads with the next Republican nominee.

But, while the presidential election gets most of the attention, there are seven propositions on the Feb. 5 ballot this year covering a wide range of issues that could affect this state in lasting and meaningful ways.

In the last three weeks, we got to know Proposition 91,
Proposition 92
and Proposition 93.

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This leads us to our final stop on the whirlwind proposition tour, a catch all package encompassing numbers 94, 95, 96 and 97, the Indian gaming propositions.

After the jump, complete analysis and we'll tell you how many millions of dollars have already been spent trying to get you to vote Yes or No. Plus: tell us why you care!


"Indian Gaming" by candacesthomas via Flickr

What the hell is this? Why are they all bunched together?

  • It's a fair question as all the other props are listed as separate constitutional amendments. These are different in a couple of ways. First, 94-97 is not an amendment that would change the state constitution, but a referendum that would approve, if voted yes, legislation that has already been approved. A no vote would undo the legislation.
  • The reason these props are all packaged together is because they all concern Indian gaming, each one concerning a different tribe, a different casino and additional slot machines each one received from increased profits through the years. Prop 94 covers the Riverside County based Pechanga tribe and their 7,500 new slot machines; 95 includes the Morongo tribe, also based in Riverside County and also with 7,500 new slot machines; Prop 96 has to do with the Sycuan tribe in San Diego County and their ability to operate up to 5,000 new slot machines; Prop 97 talks about the Agua Caliente tribe in Riverside County and the 5,000 new slot machines they operate.
  • Though they are all packaged together in commercials and fliers (and here), you will be voting on each prop separately. Don't let that throw you in the voting booth because they all essentially deal with the same thing, just for different tribes.

OK, so what do the Props say?

  • Props 94-97 would change current law to increase the amount of casinos an Indian casino can have.
  • The props would increase the amount of money deposited in the state's piggy bank, known more officially as the general fund, every year until 2030.

What is the current law?

  • Every so often, the governor negotiates how many slot machines Indian tribes can operate in their casinos. The last time this agreement was signed, in 1999, California and 58 tribes agreed to set a limit of 2,000 slot machines per tribe.
  • In recent years, the governor and some independent tribes made changes to their agreements to allow more slot machines in return for more money coming for the state’s general fund.
  • These props would change agreements with the four tribes listed above, changes that were already approved by the legislature. It is now on the ballot, because enough signatures were gathered to put these casino amendments to a vote of the people. If the prop(s) do not win voter approval, the tribe(s) will continue to operate casinos under their 1999 agreement.

How would it change your life?

  • If you're an Indian gamer, you'll have more slot machines to choose from and if you're an Indian living or working at the casino you might be in for a sweeter holiday bonus.
  • More to the point, the props affect different people in different ways that is covered in more detail below.

Financial impact on you, the tax payer:

  • The impact on California is more convex than concave. Increased annual revenue to the state will be roughly $200 million in the next few years and may increase to the low to mid hundreds of millions of dollars in future years.

Who supports it?

  • Finances are on the minds of many supporters, who say that the agreements would bring millions to the state.
    At a time when California faces a budget crisis, these agreements will provide hundreds of millions of dollars in vitally needed new state revenues each year. Over the next two decades, they will give California a total of more than $9 billion to help balance the state budget...without increasing our taxes. [Yes on 94, 95, 96 & 97]

  • That money will go toward education, public safety and senior citizen programs, says Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

  • Others say the props will add thousands of new Indian and non-Indian jobs and help Indian tribes become self-reliant, said Chairman Raymond Torres and Torres - Martinez of the Desert Cahuilla Indians
    [These agreements] provide smaller, non-gaming tribes with funding to help our people become self-reliant and to fund health care, education and other services on our reservations [Yes for California]

  • Among the groups supporting the props are the NAACP and the Black American Political Association of California, who say:
    African Americans support tribal sovereignty that is critical for social and economic justice for Native Americans. Voting Yes on Props 94-97 will help preserve tribal sovereignty for these four tribes and every other tribe in California – which is threatened by the referenda to overturn the compacts. [NAACP, BAPAC]
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How much they've spent trying to tell you to vote Yes?

Who opposes it?

  • Some Indian groups oppose the measures, saying the tribes don't get enough and should reject the deal to work out a more equitable referendum.
    The Lottery, which is “taxed” at a whopping 83%...goes to public education, with the rest used for retailer commissions and bonuses. Props 94-97 will turn that equation around for Indian casinos: 85% of profit will go to the tribes, (ALL 1800 people!) the rest to the state. Obviously we should negotiate a better deal. If these propositions fail, that’s what will happen. [Original Pechanga]
  • Environmental concerns from what would be larger casinos are also on the minds of opposers.
    The deals are exempt to environmental protection laws. Previous compacts with other tribes included a process that mirrors the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act, but the Big 4 deals failed to include the most fundamental protection: the standard 55-day comment period for stakeholders. They eliminated the only real opportunity community members have to voice environmental concerns about the proposed expansions. [Left in SF]
  • Other concerns about the package of props center on the labor issues of more casino workers.
    Under Props 94-97 casino workers are not protected. The most basic protections (health care, safety and anti-discrimination provisions) are conveniently omitted from these sweetheart deals. These are the same four tribes with a history of denying affordable health care to their employees. [North County Times]
  • Local control over community issues in Riverside are also at the heart of many peoples' discontentment with the proposed deal.
    The deals are especially bad for Riverside County because they would reduce local community input...and hurt local businesses. [The Press-Enterprise]

How much have they spent trying to get you to vote No?

  • Two groups opposing the measure, Tribes for Fair Play and Californians Against Unfair Deals have been outspent more than 2-1. Tribes have received $8,015,000 in contributions and used $4,142,280.09. Californians Against have received $10,402,250 and spent $10,188,576.23.
  • Add that up and the opposition groups have received $18,417,250 and spent $14,330,856.22.

Who's wining so far?

  • From a late December Field Poll:
    One in four voters (28%) reporting no opinion about the various gaming compact referenda. Among those who do offer an opinion, supporters narrowly
    outnumber opponents, 39% to 33% statewide. [Field Poll]

That's them, what about you?

Flickr image of "VOTE" via d.rex.