Anti-Prop. 53 campaign overplays disaster card in TV ad

Opponents of Proposition 53 are airing a new television ad that echoes statements made earlier this year by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom about its impact on local control.

The initiative, which is backed by wealthy Stockton-area farmer Dino Cortopassi, would require voter approval before California can issue more than $2 billion of revenue bonds for a single state project.

The ad, customized for five major geographic regions of the state, imagines a worst-case scenario to suggest that the measure could have a broad impact on California infrastructure. Here is the text of the ad airing in Sacramento market.


Sacramento firefighters, business, public safety and environmental leaders all oppose Prop 53.

Prop. 53 takes away local control, allowing voters in San Francisco or L.A. to veto local projects we need. Like water supply and road safety.

And Prop. 53 has no exemptions for emergencies or natural disasters. So when the big one hits, critical road and hospital repairs could be delayed years.

No on Prop 53. It’s dangerous.


The statements in the ad falsely imply that California regularly uses revenue bonds for emergency projects to create the sense that Proposition 53 would have a devastating effect by delaying repairs until after an election can take place.

In fact, repairs from natural disasters are generally handled by the federal government or other sources. Among the rare instances, if not the only one, when California has issued emergency revenue bonds was during the energy crisis of 2000, when the state sold more than $11 billion in bonds to buy electricity.

Traditionally, revenue bonds, which are repaid with user fees or other earnings from a project, are used for ventures like bridges and toll roads. They were also used to build the State Water Project, a collection of dams, canals and pipelines that provide drinking and irrigation water throughout California.

Proposition 53 is also unlikely to have a significant effect on local projects. It covers only projects “funded, owned, operated, or managed by the state” and exempts revenue bonds issued by cities, counties, schools, community colleges and special districts.

Those entities sometimes partner with the state, through “joint powers authorities” or similar bodies, for help with their infrastructure needs. The resulting projects are almost never financed with more than $2 billion of revenue bonds.

Even state projects that use more than $2 billion of revenue bonds are rare. In its analysis of Proposition 53, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office found only two current proposals that might be affected: the water conveyance tunnels under the Delta, and the statewide high-speed rail system, which is now under construction but may need revenue bonds for completion.

Neither of those divisive projects are mentioned in the opponents’ ad.

PoliGRAPH is The Bee’s political fact checker, rating campaign advertisements and candidate claims as True, Iffy or False.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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