Soapbox

Prop. 53 will give voters a voice on mega-projects

Stockton farmer Dean Cortopassi, pointing to land he owns in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, is bankrolling Proposition 53, which would require a statewide vote to issue revenue bonds to fund mega-projects.
Stockton farmer Dean Cortopassi, pointing to land he owns in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, is bankrolling Proposition 53, which would require a statewide vote to issue revenue bonds to fund mega-projects. The Associated Press

Taxes, fees and fines are just some of the ways the state regularly siphons voters’ pocketbooks. While Californians have a voice in some of these charges, too often money is taken and debt is incurred without any voter or even legislative approval.

On a crowded ballot this November, one measure would give voters a say before they are signed up for more debt. Proposition 53 would finally give voters a voice before they are expected to foot the bill for multibillion-dollar state megaprojects through increased rates and fees.

Simply put, Proposition 53 says Californians should have the opportunity to vote on state projects (local governments are excluded) financed with more than $2 billion in state revenue bonds. It ensures the total cost of a project is disclosed to voters before Election Day. It also guarantees a nonpartisan analysis by the Legislative Analyst’s Office and a legislative hearing that is open to the public.

As president of the Sacramento Taxpayers Association, I advocate daily for holding our government accountable to the people. Proposition 53 was a no-brainer for our organization to get behind and support.

Now, millions of Californians do not have a voice in multibillion-dollar state revenue bonds. California requires voter approval for all other types of bonds, such as general obligation bonds for water projects and building schools, but a loophole in the law does not extend voter approval to revenue bonds.

Career politicians and state bureaucrats discovered this loophole. They know they can avoid public approval and scrutiny if they issue revenue bonds.

Critics of Proposition 53 claim the measure is not needed because voters can simply vote politicians out of office if they don’t like being signed up for more debt. However, many of these revenue bonds are issued by appointed members of state agencies, resulting in virtually no transparency or accountability and almost always guaranteeing massive cost overruns.

It is kind of like being forced to eat at a fancy restaurant with a table full of 400-pound sumo wrestlers who hand you the check at the end of the meal. It is enough to give you indigestion.

To make matters worse, a vote is not required by the Legislature or the people. So voters cannot seek recourse. It should upset you that this is the state’s way of doing business when billions of dollars are at stake. In the last 30 years, $1.5 trillion in debt has been issued by state and local governments. If we don’t do something to rein it in, that will be the biggest legacy we leave for future generations.

Proposition 53 puts an end to blank-check spending and says that if voters have to pay, then they deserve to have a say.

Katy Grimes is president of the Sacramento Taxpayers Association and wrote this viewpoint on behalf of the Yes on Proposition 53 campaign. She can be contacted at fetchingjen@gmail.com.

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