Editorials

Vote ‘yes’ on all the June 2018 ballot measures but one

Proposition 70 would set up a potential showdown on high speed rail funding and cap and trade revenues.
Proposition 70 would set up a potential showdown on high speed rail funding and cap and trade revenues.

California’s June ballot will have only five propositions, and count your blessings. All were put there by legislation; initiatives from the public now are consigned to the statewide November ballot, which will be loaded this fall.

Meantime, we urge a “yes” vote on all but one of the June measures (Proposition 70, which messes with the state’s cap-and-trade revenues, and not in a good way). Our picks:

Proposition 68: Yes. It has been more than a decade since California voters were last asked to approve a statewide bond to upgrade parks and make sure the state’s water supply is clean and protected. This $4.1 billion bond measure is intelligently constructed and a reasonable ask.

Roughly two-thirds of the money would go to build and maintain parks, and a substantial amount is set aside for park-poor communities such as those in the Central Valley. The rest of the bond is allotted to critical priorities such as getting clean drinking water to impoverished communities; protecting Californians from floods, wildfires and mudslides; replenishing groundwater; shoring up the levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta; and making it easier for homeowners and farmers to conserve precious water.

Of all the ballot measures, Proposition 71 is probably the most needed, due to the ways in which voting has changed.

This bond won’t pay for new dams or the controversial Delta tunnels; Senate Bill 5, the legislation that put this on the ballot, passed the Senate and Assembly by a two-thirds vote, with the support of just about everyone, including the Sierra Club and the California Chamber of Commerce. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has reflexively opposed it, but California’s debt load is substantially lower thanks to Gov. Jerry Brown’s fiscal restraint and the economic rebound, and long-term projects like these shouldn’t be paid out of the general fund.

Proposition 69: Yes. The 12-cent gas tax increase passed last year by California lawmakers was the first in 23 years, and, gauging from the number of potholes in need of filling, it was way overdue. This companion measure would ensure that $5 billion in new revenue only gets spent on transportation projects. While most transportation revenue is already constitutionally earmarked, some of the new funding falls outside those protections, so this is just common-sense cleanup, endorsed by a long list of good government groups.

Nonetheless, some anti-tax hardliners and talk radio chatterers oppose this measure, largely because they hope to repeal the whole gas tax in November. They’re wrong. Few states rely more on highways than California. Safe roads are a basic government function. And the gas tax is a bargain, costing most Californians little more than the price of a beer a month.

Sacramento County is slated to get nearly $620 million for road and transit improvements over the next decade; Placer County will get more than $200 million; Yolo County nearly $119 million; and El Dorado County nearly $100 million. That, fellow commuters, is a lot of asphalt, light rail, bike paths and pedestrian walkways, not to mention time saved in your daily commute.

Proposition 70: No. In the last-minute deal-making that extended California’s landmark cap-and-trade law regulating greenhouse gas pollution, Brown gave Republicans this gift in exchange for their critical votes. Proposition 70 would set up a 2024 showdown in which the allocation of cap-and-trade money would be put to a two-thirds vote of Legislature, thus giving the minority party more control over the fruits of the program.

By law, cap-and-trade revenues paid by oil companies, factories and other greenhouse gas emitters – can only be used for programs that reduce climate pollution. A good-sized portion goes straight to high-speed rail, and Republicans don’t like that. But if Californians want to change the way cap-and-trade money is spent, they have an easier fix: Elect Republicans and put them in control of the Legislature. This measure is an attempted end run around a much-needed public works project that a lot of Californians want and that the majority of voters approved, at the behest, by the way, of a Republican governor.

Proposition 71: Yes. Of all the initiatives, this is probably the most needed. Right now under the state constitution, all propositions that appear likely to pass on election night automatically become law the next day.

That may have been fine when the state was young, but absentee and provisional ballots and voting by mail can now add weeks to the time it takes to determine an election’s outcome. The result is a real potential for ballot measures to take effect, and then turn out to be defeated and have to be rolled back.

That nearly happened in 2016, when a proposition banning plastic bags went into effect, even though thousands of ballots were outstanding. The ban ultimately did pass, but Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, saw the potential for confusion, after the issue was brought his attention by Ralph Shaffer, a Cal Poly Pomona historian.

Mullin authored ACA 17, a constitutional amendment, which passed the Legislature easily, and now requires voter approval. It would enact a simple change, making ballot propositions effective on the fifth day after the election results are certified.

Proposition 72: Yes. Homeowners who install systems to capture rainwater – and irrigate lawns and gardens with it – should be encouraged. Instead, they can now be dinged on their property taxes for adding the improvement, which can cost thousands of dollars.

Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, introduced Senate Bill 558, aiming to give rainwater capture the same tax protections as solar panels, fire sprinklers, disabled access and other improvements. Because it removes a tax penalty, it requires voter approval. The bill passed the Legislature unanimously, with the approval of environmental, taxpayers’ and business groups.

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