California’s June ballot will have only five propositions, and count your blessings. All were put there by legislation; initiatives from the public now are consigned to the statewide November ballot, which will be loaded this fall.
Today, we’ll focus on our recommendations for the first two:
Proposition 68: Yes. It has been more than a decade since California voters were last asked to approve a statewide bond to upgrade parks and make sure the state’s water supply is clean and protected. This $4.1 billion bond measure is intelligently constructed and a reasonable ask.
Roughly two-thirds of the money would go to build and maintain parks, and a substantial amount is set aside for park-poor communities such as those in the Central Valley. The rest of the bond is allotted to critical priorities such as getting clean drinking water to impoverished communities; protecting Californians from floods, wildfires and mudslides; replenishing groundwater; shoring up the levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta; and making it easier for homeowners and farmers to conserve precious water.
This bond won’t pay for new dams or the controversial Delta tunnels; Senate Bill 5, the legislation that put this on the ballot, passed the Senate and Assembly by a two-thirds vote, with the support of just about everyone, including the Sierra Club and the California Chamber of Commerce. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has reflexively opposed it, but California’s debt load is substantially lower thanks to Gov. Jerry Brown’s fiscal restraint and the economic rebound, and long-term projects like these shouldn’t be paid out of the general fund.
Proposition 69: Yes. The 12-cent gas tax increase passed last year by California lawmakers was the first in 23 years, and, gauging from the number of potholes in need of filling, it was way overdue. This companion measure would ensure that $5 billion in new revenue only gets spent on transportation projects. While most transportation revenue is already constitutionally earmarked, some of the new funding falls outside those protections, so this is just common-sense cleanup, endorsed by a long list of good government groups.
Nonetheless, some anti-tax hardliners and talk radio chatterers oppose this measure, largely because they hope to repeal the whole gas tax in November. They’re wrong. Few states rely more on highways than California. Safe roads are a basic government function. And the gas tax is a bargain, costing most Californians little more than the price of a beer a month.
Fresno County has 80 projects in the works. That, fellow commuters, is a lot of asphalt, not to mention time saved in your daily commute.