Valley Voices

‘Yes’ on Prop. 53 for transparency on big state projects

According to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, few projects are likely to hit the $2 billion threshold triggering the public vote called for by Proposition 53. Two projects it might affect: Efforts to build twin tunnels through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the high-speed rail system – if they rely on revenue bonds.
According to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, few projects are likely to hit the $2 billion threshold triggering the public vote called for by Proposition 53. Two projects it might affect: Efforts to build twin tunnels through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the high-speed rail system – if they rely on revenue bonds. AP file

Proposition 53 is one of the lesser-known measures on the state ballot this year, but it’s one that should have your full attention. Also known as “Stop Blank Checks,” Proposition 53 presents an opportunity for voters to tell politicians and Sacramento insiders that enough is enough when it comes to spending your money on huge state mega-projects with no accountability or oversight.

Currently, voter approval is required for general obligation bonds for water, schools and other projects – but not for billions in state revenue bonds. There is absolutely no vote required. No vote by the Legislature; no vote by the people. These decisions are left to appointed (unelected) bureaucrats who are members of state agencies.

Politicians and special interests who profit from massive state mega-projects are increasingly using this loophole to circumvent voters and issue billions of dollars in debt to fund their pet projects without getting voter approval.

Proposition 53 will close this loophole and put Californians in control when it comes to issuing billions in long-term debt. The measure would simply do two things. First, it would require voter approval before the state can issue over $2 billion in state revenue bonds. Second, it would ensure that the total cost of a project is disclosed to voters before they head to the polls.

It’s a common-sense measure that all Californians should get behind and support.

Proposition 53 gives the voters more power before they are faced with paying higher rates and fees. Revenue bonds are long-term debt that extends decades, so future generations will also be footing the bill. That’s why the Tulare County Taxpayers Association, along with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and over a dozen newspapers are supporting Proposition 53.

Projects of this magnitude – over $2 billion – are the state’s biggest mega-projects that impact nearly all of us through higher rates and fees. In the Legislative Analyst’s Office’s independent analysis of the measure, it stated that “few projects cost over $2 billion.”

The LAO only named two projects that would fall under Proposition 53’s threshold. Both are estimated to total nearly $100 billion! Since these are the biggest projects in California’s history, we should have voter approval, greater transparency and more oversight.

It’s no surprise the special interests oppose Proposition 53. They do not want to lose their unchecked power and profits they stand to make when budgets increase and deadlines are delayed (think high-speed rail).

That’s why the California Public Securities Association, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, and others that would directly profit from state mega-projects oppose Proposition 53. But they don’t just oppose it. They are funding false ads intended to scare voters by saying Proposition 53 impacts things that it doesn’t. Even The Sacramento Bee said the television ads included misinformation.

Please join me in voting “yes” on Proposition 53 to stop blank checks, increase transparency and give voters a say before they have to pay increased costs.

Chris Telfer is president of the Tulare County Taxpayers Association.

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