Soapbox

Prop. 53 could block badly needed local 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

Proposition 53 may not be the flashiest measure on this year’s ballot, but it could be the most important.

It is a direct assault on local control. It would severely impair the Sacramento region’s ability to build vital infrastructure to accommodate our area’s rapid growth.

Some local road projects, projects for safe drinking water and University of California and California Statue University facilities could be jeopardized. Under Proposition 53, local joint powers authorities, created to address local infrastructure priorities, would have to put some projects on a statewide ballot before moving forward. That means voters in Los Angeles, San Diego and other parts of our state would decide whether improvements in the Sacramento area will go forward even if Sacramento-area ratepayers believe a project is needed and are willing to pay for it.

That’s silly.

Our communities already suffer from a massive backlog of infrastructure needs: water systems, bridges, overpasses, freeways and public universities. Proposition 53 will cause additional delays and increase costs.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Proposition 53 has an omission that frightens me and should anyone else in public safety: There’s no exemption for emergency repairs following natural and man-made disasters. After an earthquake, fire or flood, our communities could have to wait as long as two years to even begin rebuilding damaged or destroyed roads, freeways, bridges, hospitals and water-delivery systems. The Sacramento area has had its share of disasters in recent years; Proposition 53 could make it extremely difficult to finance emergency repairs.

Proposition 53 also doesn’t make much fiscal sense. Private investors bear the financial risk for revenue bonds, not the state or its general fund. Revenue bonds are repaid by users of a project who directly benefit, not taxpayers. There simply is no credible need for a statewide election on projects that aren’t financed by taxpayers and where the state and local governments bear none of the financial risk.

It’s a solution in search of a problem.

A broad, nonpartisan coalition of more than 260 organizations opposes Proposition 53. It includes California Professional Firefighters, the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, the Northern California Water Association, the California Chamber of Commerce, the League of California Cities, the California State Association of Counties, the California Hospital Association and the California State Sheriffs Association.

Proposition 53 is financed entirely by one Stockton-area multimillionaire and his family, who are spending millions in an attempt to disrupt a single water-infrastructure project.

We cannot allow one multimillionaire’s personal agenda to dictate policy that would send California infrastructure projects down a long and winding rabbit hole. The last thing our state needs is more roadblocks to keeping our communities livable and safe.

Lou Paulson is president of California Professional Firefighters and wrote this viewpoint on behalf of the No on Proposition 53 campaign. He can be contacted at info@cpf.org.

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