These are our thoughts on the last six statewide propositions, which didn’t fit neatly into our earlier categories.
NO on Prop 51: Not Enough Money, and Not Where It’s Needed
Funding for education in California is woefully inadequate, and while Prop 51 proposes to create a $9 billion fund for new school construction and building maintenance, it’s a first-come first-served approach rather than prioritizing school districts most in need, which would exacerbate the educational funding gaps within the state. Moreover, some of the biggest backers of this proposition are developers who seem to want this bill in order to get out of their obligation to pay developers fees that currently compose one-third of the funds used to support critical infrastructure, including schools. Lastly, local school bonds have been successful in funding school projects that address local needs. Yes, school construction is needed, and a recent report suggests the state needs to be spending $18 billion a year just to maintain its inventory but this may not be the best mechanism for doing that. In analyzing a statewide bond proposition we have asked if this bill is better than the status quo, and while a $9 billion infusion into the state’s budget seems like a boon for our state’s education, taxpayers would need to repay 17 billion dollars over the 35 years without addressing the systemic funding problem of our educational system. For these reasons, we recommend a NO vote on prop 51.
UPDATE: Although we oppose the statewide bond proposed in Prop 51, we do support local school bond measures in general, and we recommend a YES vote on Los Angeles Community College District Bond Measure CC.
NO on Prop 53: Arbitrary, Ill-conceived, and Unnecessary
Prop 53 would require a statewide vote to approve any state revenue bonds to fund projects over $2 billion (with future thresholds adjusted for inflation). In short, this proposition simply makes no sense. Why should voters throughout the state decide on projects that are typically designed to support local or regional infrastructure? Consider the example of the recently completed eastern span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge, which replaced a section of bridge that was unable to withstand future earthquakes, and was projected to cost $2.6 billion when construction began. Should voters in Southern California—who greatly outnumber their Bay Area counterparts—have had the option to veto this vital regional infrastructure project? Absolutely not. California is a large state with diverse regions that have differing needs, and voters in one region should not be responsible for deciding the fate of important projects in other regions. Mechanisms such as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act already provide significant opportunities for challenges to state projects. Opponents also note that there is no exemption for emergencies or natural disasters, which could leave California communities suffering unnecessarily for months, or years, while they wait for voters to approve reconstruction funding.
Prop 53 is yet another example of one wealthy family taking out a personal grudge on the state ballot process, and it would be a disaster for public policy. We strongly urge a NO vote.
YES on Prop 54: Increase Transparency in the State Legislature
It’s difficult to argue with measures that increase transparency in our state legislative process, and Prop 54’s requirements to post proposed legislation online for at least 72 hours before it can be passed, and to make video recordings of legislative and committee sessions available to the public, does just that. We also see value in the potentially unintended benefit of forcing the legislature to do their work in a more timely fashion. On the last day of this year’s legislative session, the legislature still had over 100 bills to consider. Leaving these issues to the last minute provides almost zero opportunity for constituents to understand the bills under consideration, or for legislators to hear the concerns of their constituents on those issues. And when the Governor vetoes popular bills, the legislature has no opportunity to override the veto because they are no longer in session. California has a full-time legislators, and it should be well within their abilities to provide advance notice of bills, and recordings of public hearings.
Transparency may not benefit the politicians in power, but it benefits the residents of California regardless of their political leanings. We recommend a YES vote on Prop 54.
YES on Prop 55: Maintain Funding for California Schools
Prop 55 would extend a temporary income tax on income over $263,000 per year to provide funding primarily for public schools and community colleges. Originally scheduled to phase out starting in 2018, this measure would maintain the current rates until 2030. It should be noted that this is not a tax increase, only a continuation of current tax rates. If this measure fails, the wealthiest Californians will actually see a tax cut, while also putting school funding at risk. The official state voter guide notes that for someone making $300,000 per year, the annual tax burden under this bill is only $370. With most new income in the economic recovery going to the highest earners, we don’t think it’s too much to ask for the wealthiest Californians to continue to support our schools.
Prop 55 will maintain funding for California schools without raising taxes on anyone, we recommend a YES vote.
YES on Prop 58: Providing Choice in School Language Programs
In 1998, California voters approved Prop 227 banning bilingual education in public schools in favor of English immersion for all students. Although proponents of the initiative touted the educational benefits of English-only education, polls indicated voters were primarily motivated by an attitude that only English should be spoken in the United States.
Despite the best efforts of anti-immigrant forces in this country, the United States does not have an official language. Prop 58 would overturn many of the provisions of Prop 227, allowing for the option of bilingual education in California public schools. Although much of the academic research has largely focused on children born into bilingual families, there are strong indications that bilingual children can have better educational outcomes than their monolingual peers, not to mention the life-long benefit of acquiring a second language. Regardless of the benefits, Prop 58 does not actually require schools, parents, or students to participate in bilingual immersion programs, it simply provides the option for something that should have never been illegal in the first place.
Prop 58 is another opportunity to correct a past wrong, we recommend a YES vote.
YES on Prop 59: Tell Elected Officials to Overturn Citizens United (if they want)
people[PLACES]spaces fully supports overturning the Citizens United Supreme Court Decision. Although Prop 59 has no concrete impacts, it allows California voters to weigh in on the debate to encourage statewide elected officials to support steps in seeking the return to restrictions on corporate spending on elections. The state legislative analyst finds no direct fiscal effects on local and state governments. While the non-binding nature of proposition 59 makes this proposition seem like a glorified poll, it sends a powerful message to California’s elected leaders, and for that reason we recommend voting YES.