Editorial: Our recommendations on the five state ballot propositions

Here’s our view on the five state ballot propositions voters will decide June 5:

Prop. 68 — Parks Bonds. No.

This would authorize the state to sell $4 billion in general obligation bonds for parks, environmental projects, water infrastructure and flood-control projects.

California is running an $8 billion surplus. When this bond is paid off, it will cost $7.8 billion — $4 billion in principal and $3.8 billion in interest and fees to Wall Street.

If the projects Prop. 68 would fund are so important, why not use the surplus to pay for them? That’s exactly what the Legislature could have done — and saved taxpayers $3.8 billion. But instead, they put this proposition on the ballot. We favor a pay-as-you-go approach, where these improvements are funded through the state budget without borrowing.

And if your focus is on parks, you should realize that only $1.3 billion of the $4 billion is actually dedicated to improving parks. Critics charge that the remaining money will be given to politicians to spend on their pet projects, and the money is not evenly distributed. They contend that every Californian should have their local park improved, not just those lucky few who live near the parks of powerful politicians.

We’re also concerned that the money will be controlled by the state Department of Parks and Recreation. Remember back in 2012 how that department threatened to close 70 parks, saying it didn’t have enough money to keep them open. But an audit later discovered the department had the money, but was hiding it from the public.

Prop. 68 is a badly flawed measure. We support parks, the environment, water projects and flood abatement. But we think they should be financed through the regular state budgeting process, and not with expensive borrowed money. Vote “no” on Prop. 68.

Prop. 69 — Spending of Transportation Funds. Yes.

If you’re looking for a laugh, read the fine print of Prop. 69 and think about it for a few minutes.

The Legislature last year raised the gas tax by 12 cents a gallon, the diesel tax by 20 cents and the car tax by $25 to $100 a year. When the legislators passed these tax increases, they promised the money would go to improve roads and build mass transit systems.

Prop. 69 simply forces the Legislature to keep their promises. Prop. 69 won’t change the taxes. There will be a proposition on the November ballot that will allow voters to repeal those taxes.

It’s ridiculous that we need to pass a proposition to remind politicians to keep the promises they made a year ago. It’s funny how the Legislature would put something silly like this before the voters yet steadfastly refuses to put high-speed rail to a vote.

Prop. 70 — Cap-and-Trade Restrictions. Yes.

This a a good government measure that says money the state collects from the cap-and-trade program can only be spent on projects that receive a two-thirds approval vote in the Legislature starting in 2024. For a project to get two-thirds approval, it will probably have to have bipartisan support unless one party gains supermajority control of the Legislature.

This proposition forces Democrats and Republicans to work together.

That might explain why it has the support of Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and Republican Assemblyman Chad Mayes, one of the authors of the measure. We think the state gets better governance when the two parties are forced to cooperate.

Opponents claim that a two-thirds vote will somehow give Big Oil control of cap-and-trade proceeds. They don’t explain how that would happen. It strikes us as a scare tactic, where supporters of Prop. 70 are being falsely aligned with oil companies and other modern-day villains.

What the opponents may actually fear, though they would never say it out loud, is that the diversion of cap-and-trade money to high-speed rail might stop if this proposition passes. We urge a “yes” vote on Prop. 70.

Prop. 71 — Effective Date of Ballot Propositions. No.

If approved, Prop. 71 would move the effective date of ballot propositions from the day after Election Day to the fifth day after the secretary of state certifies election results.

The existing date when propositions take effect goes back to 1970, and there hasn’t been a problem, so we don’t understand why this change is being proposed to voters now. As a practical matter, no law approved by voters could ever take effect before the outcome of the vote is determined. But by delaying the effective date of a proposition until five days after certification, it’s possible that the Legislature could find a way to delay certification for an extended amount of time if it didn’t agree with the outcome of the election.

A “yes” vote opens the door to mischief. The current procedure isn’t broken, so why fix it? Vote “no” on Prop. 71.

Prop. 72 — Rainwater Capture Systems. Yes.

If voters approve Prop. 72, the state Legislature would be allowed to exclude rainwater capture systems added after Jan. 1, 2019, from property tax assessments.

When property owners add new construction to their homes or businesses, the addition is assessed for taxable value. A rainwater system would count as an addition subject to the property tax. Prop. 72 would exclude rainwater systems from the definition of new construction, exempting them from property taxes.

Homeowners should be encouraged to install systems that capture rainwater to irrigate their laws and gardens.

Currently the law penalizes these homeowners by raising their taxes.

In a state that frequently suffers from drought conditions, such a penalty is nonsensical and should be eliminated. Prop. 72 deserves your support.

— Editor Dave Price

7 Comments

  1. I was going to vote Yes on 68 until I read this. With the interest and fees, we’re going to be paying double for the actual cost of these park projects. Seems pretty wasteful. Thanks for writing this.

  2. What’s the point of having a surplus if you’re not using it to fund things people need. I probably will vote for Prop 68 because I don’t think we should waste time acquiring park land. But I agree that it is a shame that the state can’t fund this through its 8 billion surplus.

  3. I appreciate your opinions about these propositions. They’ve received very little news coverage and I haven’t received any mailers about them. So thank you for researching this.

    • MAY I ALSO ADD MY THANKS………..I HAVE ACTUALLY CHANGED 2 OF MY 5 BALLOT OUTCOMES BASED ON YOUR LOGICAL REASONING…….THANKS FOR TAKING THE TIME

  4. We, as citizens of California, never got a chance to vote on Cap-and-Trade, a program that needlessly raises our gas prices and utility bills to the highest in the nation. Yet they want to make a change in the Cap-and-Trade program, and we’re “allowed” to vote on that? Cap-and-Trade was originally advertised as a way to punish big polluters, like oil companies and utilities. But those companies just passed the cost on to consumers. So we’re being punished for something we didn’t do. Jerry Brown and his fellow thieves in the Legislature take the Cap-and-Trade money and spend it on their pet projects, like High Speed Rail. I want to repeal Cap-and-Trade.

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