Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | October 7, 2008

No on statewide bonds, BART sales tax

The Morgan Hill Times editorial board, of which I’m a member, recently published its endorsements for the general election’s statewide propositions and Santa Clara County ballot measures.

While I agree with the some of the board’s positions – recommending no votes on Proposition 8, an attempt to ban same-sex marriage; Prop 7, a counterproductive effort to encourage renewable energy; and Prop 4, another attempt to require parental notification for minors seeking abortions; and a yes vote on Pop 11, a redistricting reform proposal – I disagree with several others.

For starters, the editorial board and I disagree on every statewide bond proposal. A bond is a loan from bond purchasers that taxpayers residing in the borrowing municipality – state, county, city or other governmental agency – must repay with interest.

Prop 1A is an almost $10 billion bond measure that would only partly fund a high-speed rail line through California. That staggering number is only a quarter of the projected cost of the project. Current best guesses are that the actual cost will be $40 billion. We all know how accurate these types of estimates tend to be: not very.

To repay this bond, which represents in the best-case scenario just one-fourth of the project’s total cost, California will spend $20 billion in scarce general fund dollars.

California officials just announced that they will likely need a $7 billion emergency loan from the feds. I just can’t see how California can afford this project.

I’m voting no on Prop 1A.

The state’s chronic economic woes are prompting me to vote no on every state bond measure:

• No on Prop 3, which would authorize almost $1 billion in bonds to pay for construction and renovation of children’s hospitals

• No on Prop 10, which would authorize $5 billion bonds to encourage renewable fuel vehicles and alternative energy sources

• No on Prop 12, which would authorize $900 million in bonds to pay for housing and farm assistance to veterans.

Many of these bonds have laudable goals, but not one is critical enough to justify taking on massive amounts of debt when California can’t balance its budget without resorting to accounting gimmicks.

But our disagreements don’t stop with statewide bond measures.

While the editorial board rightly rejected one ballot-box budgeting proposal, Prop 5, which would force the state to spend $460 million a year on drug rehab programs, it endorsed an even heftier ballot-box budgeting proposal, Prop 6, which would force the state to spend $1 billion a year on police and local law enforcement. These are laudable goals, but that’s not sufficient justification for any ballot-box budgeting proposal.

Ballot-box budgeting is a scourge that harms California and must be eliminated. The editorial board’s reasoning in rejecting Prop 5 applies to all ballot-box budgeting measures: “… ballot-box budgeting … contributes to the state’s fiscal crisis and ties the hands of legislators when they need fiscal flexibility.”

We live in a republic in which legislators, not individual voters, are supposed to be experts on the state’s budget and set the state’s spending priorities. Let’s allow our state legislators do their jobs and then hold them responsible for the results. Approving Prop 11 and rejecting all ballot-box budgeting measures no matter the pet projects they fund – and this applies to Prop 5 and Prop 6 – are two important steps in that direction.

Prop 9 could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars and duplicates victims’ rights already present in state law, so unlike the editorial board, I’m recommending a no vote on Prop 9.

Then we come to the county measures. Like the editorial board, I support Prop A, which would authorize $840 million in bonds to make seismic upgrades to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. This is the one state or county bond that is important enough to approve even in these tough economic times.

We differ on every other county measure. Measures B, C and D should all go down to resounding defeats. Voting yes on Measure C represents a thumbs-up that the VTA doesn’t deserve; voting yes on Measure D reduces VTA accountability.

Measure B is an 1/8-cent sales tax increase to pay for operation of the BART-to-San Jose extension. Spending any money on this boondoggle that will harm local public transit is foolish. I’ve heard some Measure B proponents hint that if it fails, the BART extension is dead. They mean it as a threat, I take it as a promise.

No on Measure B, Measure C and Measure D.

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