These legislators are voting against your interests

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, talks with Sens. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, and Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado Hills
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, talks with Sens. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, and Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado Hills hector@hectoramezcua.com

Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, counts himself as a “no” vote on the proposed $4 billion parks, water and flood control bond embodied in Senate Bill 5 by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León.

The reason, Cooper told an editorial board member, is that there would be a mere $1.6 million for parks in his district. All politics are local, but they shouldn’t be parochial.

Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, R-Rocklin, similarly plans to vote against the bond, contending such matters should be funded by general taxes, not bonds that spread costs over 30 years. Debt is a problem, but that’s also how the state pays for public projects intended to provide 30 years or more of benefit.

Sen. Ted Gaines, of El Dorado Hills, already voted against the bond when it was in the Senate. But conservatives such as Gaines ought to be supportive. The bill would authorize a statewide vote on the bond in 2018. Voters, in other words, would have final say.

It also would benefit his constituents. The bond would provide $550 million for flood control, much of it in the Central Valley represented by Cooper, Kiley and Gaines.

There would also be $1.2 billion for parks. Much of that money would flow to urban Southern California, where two-thirds of Californians reside. But this end of the state would get its share, including up to $10 million for the American River Parkway.

Another $1.3 million would be earmarked for restoration efforts to benefit fish and wildlife, much of it in the Sierra and the Cascades, and to reduce dust and other environmental damage from the shrinking and increasingly saline Salton Sea, which is in one of the poorest parts of the state.

For the first time, the state would earmark $140 million specifically for the environmentally stressed Sierra; Gaines’ district includes the Cascades and much of the Sierra, but like many Republicans he generally votes against spending, even if it might benefit their districts.

The parks-water-flood control bond, like several other weighty measures, is subject to the sort of games that go on in the final day of a legislative session, especially in this era of term limits. So it will be on Friday.

Bills intended to ease California’s housing shortage also are in doubt. One bill would place a second $4 billion bond on the 2018 ballot to construct affordable housing. Another bill would to ease red tape on construction. A third would impose a tax of $75 on homeowners who refinance.

Legislators don’t like voting for taxes. But a refinancing fee, as envisioned by SB 2 by Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, would provide an ongoing, pay-as-you go source of money for affordable housing, an idea that ought to resonate with legislators who are rightly wary of California’s debt.

Another measure subject to end-of-session hijinks is SB 100, also by de León. It would set a goal that will resonate far beyond Sacramento: declaring that by 2045, electric power generation in California will produce zero carbon.

“If our goal is create more livable communities today and a healthier planet for the next generation,” Controller Betty Yee wrote, urging passage, “waiting for someone else to take a leadership role is not an option.”

And that’s the point. As they cast votes on Friday, lawmakers should focus on what matters, legislation that could help solve California’s housing shortage, improve the environment and leave the state a little better for the generations to come.