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PD Editorial: Thumbs up, thumbs down

Jon Lewis unpacks thousands of cans of spaghetti sauce at the Redwood Empire Food Bank's new warehouse.

CONNER JAY / The Press Democrat
Published: Monday, April 1, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 29, 2013 at 5:18 p.m.

Putting a brake on school bond debt

No one seriously disputes the need for safe, modern schools. But it's next to impossible to justify loans requiring taxpayers to fork over $10 in interest for every dollar borrowed. Just as bad are deferred payments that stick future taxpayers with the bills for today's building projects.

A bill approved by the Assembly Education Committee would put some modest restrictions on capital appreciation bonds, one of the instruments used to defer payments. AB 182 would limit debt service to four times the amount borrowed and limit the life of the bonds to 25 years.

Treasurer Bill Lockyer, meanwhile, is raising questions about the relationships between school districts and companies they hire to run bond campaigns and, if voters approve, to underwrite the bonds. Lockyer wants a legal opinion from the attorney general. We look forward to reading it.

Hit with an extra tax bite

Denmark, Sweden and Spain provide citizens with free, online tax returns. They're filled out in advance and can simply be returned. They can be adjusted or rejected by taxpayers who want to fill out their own. In the U.S., support for such a system has come from Presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. But it's never gotten off the ground.

For that, you can thank the makers of TurboTax, according to a report from National Public Radio and Pro Publica, a nonprofit investigative reporting foundation. Intuit, which sells TurboTax software, has spent $11.5 million on lobbying in Washington in the past five years, targeting bills that would have allowed taxpayers to file returns for free. The bills went nowhere.

Ag-gag masquerades as protection

In some states, cattlemen are sponsoring legislation making it illegal to take pictures or video in a slaughterhouse or meatpacking plant. Their goal is to thwart efforts by animal rights groups to publicize animal cruelty and unsafe food-handling practices. The bills are called ag-gag.

In California, the cattlemen's bill purports to be about protecting animals. It would require that all photographic evidence be turned over to law enforcement within 48 hours. One result would be to quickly identify any whistleblowers before there's enough evidence to document a pattern of abuse. It's also likely to keep any unpleasant pictures from becoming public.

This bill, AB 343 by Fresno Republican Jim Patterson, ought to be put down, quickly and humanely.

New digs for local food bank

The median monthly income of those who receive food at the Redwood Empire Food Bank is $930. That's less than one-fifth of the median income of all Sonoma County residents. Unfortunately, the numbers of those who have turned to the food bank for help in recent years has only continued to climb. In the meantime, the food bank has long been in need of new space to meet the demand and to be able to meet the changing needs of recipients. Now it has the space it needs. Thanks primarily to the generosity of 300 donors who put up $9.3 million, the food bank has new quarters on Brickway Boulevard near the county airport. It will officially be reopening in its new home today. That's cause for celebration.

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