Faced with a choice of whether to provide children with access to top-notch hospitals or leave them and their families to fend for themselves, big-hearted Californians have shown time and again that they will gladly hand over their tax dollars — even in the midst of a recession.
They should do so again this year by voting “yes” on Proposition 4 on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The measure would authorize $1.5 billion in general obligation bonds to build, expand, renovate and upgrade equipment at children’s hospitals across the state, as well as the roughly 150 other hospitals that treat kids. Locally, it’s a group that would include Sutter Children’s Center and UC Davis Children’s Hospital.
Collectively, these hospitals treat more than 2 million patients every year, often for serious procedures, including organ transplants, heart surgeries and cancer treatments.
In the past, this editorial board urged voters to reject two ballot measures similar to Proposition 4, arguing that California would essentially be undercutting its future by redirecting funds from schools and social services to hospitals, and by adding to the state’s debt — concerns that remain today, as evidenced by Gov. Jerry Brown’s neutral stance on this measure.
But in 2004, Proposition 61 passed anyway, putting $750 million in bonds towards capital projects at children’s hospitals. And in 2008, with the Great Recession bearing down on the state, voters also approved Proposition 3, providing another $980 million.
Proposition 4 carries a larger price tag than those previous ballot measures; repaying the bonds would cost an average of $80 million a year over the next 35 years, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. It also is broader in scope, applying to more than just the state’s eight private children’s hospitals and the five that are part of the UC system. It also would set aside $150 million for other public and private nonprofit hospitals that provide services to children.
But in many ways, the need has never been greater.
Nearly two-thirds of the patients at children’s hospitals use Medi-Cal, but California issues reimbursements at an exceedingly low rate. There’s also the new, costly requirement for hospitals to upgrade their facilities to stricter seismic standards by 2030. Without extra funding, cutbacks are likely.
Unlike with Proposition 3, for example, which asks voters to approve $8.9 billion in bonds for water projects while billions of dollars from previous ballot measures sits unspent, children’s hospitals have used all of the funding from the prior bonds.
If Proposition 4 is approved, the California Health Facilities Financing Authority will decide what projects will be awarded. While the decisions should be made with care whenever the next economic downturn hits, now is not the time to skimp on California’s kids.
Voters should reject Proposition 12, which would ban the sale of eggs, uncooked pork and veal from farms that don’t meet new space requirements for hens, pigs and calves. The measure would build on Proposition 2, which voters approved in 2008 to set size restrictions for confinement pens based on animal behavior.
Proposition 12 would make those restrictions more clear by setting a specific number of square feet for confinement. But it is far from clear whether the sizes are adequate.
While the Humane Society certainly thinks so and is backing the measure, several animal rights groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, are opposing it, insisting that Proposition 12 would keep hens in “horrific” multi-level, cage-free, factory farms.
If approved, the measure also could cost the state as much as $10 million a year to enforce, and millions of dollars more per year in lost tax revenues from farm businesses, according to the LAO. Several farm groups, including the Association of California Egg Farmers and National Pork Producers Council, also are against the measure.
This is one more example of an issue that should have been resolved in the Legislature, not foisted upon voters through a ballot initiative.
Other endorsements on statewide measures on the Nov. 6 ballot: