Absentee and mail-in ballots will soon be arriving in Kings County voters’ mailboxes. Along with ballots, voters will be getting a voter guide – one that will be much thicker than usual. The state has 16 propositions on the November ballot. Each proposition has an explanation, analysis and arguments for and against, creating one of the heftiest guides in recent years.
The Sentinel will not be endorsing candidates in local, state or national elections, but we will be offering our recommendations on the multitude of propositions voters face this fall. We start this weekend with Propositions 51 and 53.
Vote yes on Prop 51
We believe that good schools are key to a democracy, and that includes the physical structure of schools.
Proposition 51 would issue $9 billion in bonds for school construction, modernization, construction of career technical education facilities and charter schools. The money would go to both K-12 schools and community colleges.
The analysis of the proposition says the bonds would probably be sold over five years with an interest rate of 5 percent. It would cost the state about $500 million a year to pay off the bonds – which is less than a half of a percent of the state’s current General Fund Budget. The bonds would be paid off in five years.
It’s important to keep money for school facilities going where it’s needed and to allow schools to get in line for state money to help them build and modernize, and it’s especially important that schools are able to build to meet the needs of students who want to go into technical careers.
A yes vote on Proposition 51 will help ensure California schools keep up with demand and changing needs.
Vote no on Proposition 53
On the surface, Proposition 53 sounds like a good way of reining in some of the free-spending habits of state legislators. The high-speed rail project is specifically mentioned as a prime example of the need for voters to exert more control over how much projects actually cost.
However, this proposition has flaws. The first is the arbitrary project cost that would trigger a voter referendum - $2 billion. While that sounds like a lot, it really isn’t when you consider what it costs to build and repair highways and bridges. Who would want to be asked to vote on a state bridge project in Mendocino County, as an example?
And, if construction costs rise, the number of projects brought before voters would only increase.
The second and even bigger flaw is that there is no exemption for repairs to damage caused by natural disasters. When the big earthquake eventually strikes, it will be important to get roads, buildings, bridges, sewer systems, pipelines and other infrastructure repaired as quickly as possible. Having to wait for voter approval would cause delay.
While we agree with the need to get a project like high-speed rail under control, this proposition isn’t it.