California voters will decide the fate of five ballot measures June 5, including funding for parks and water projects, how to spend fuel and vehicle taxes, and possible incentives for homeowners to collect rainwater.
Here’s what you need to know about each proposition before Tuesday’s election:
Sign Up For More Debt To Fix Parks And Water Quality Projects?
Prop. 68 would allocate approximately $4 billion for things like state parks and water quality projects.
Rachel Norton with the California State Parks Foundation says the measure will give local and state parks a needed boost with $218 million. "There's a big backlog of projects of things that need to be fixed,” she said. “From roads to amenities like restrooms, signage, you name it there are capital needs in the parks.”
The bond measure will fund more than parks. It includes money for the Salton Sea Restoration, wastewater recycling and protections for rivers.
“It was an opportunity to kind of get a little more comprehensive in trying to enhance the investments that need to be made as we continue to prepare for future droughts,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, a Democratic lawmaker from Southern California who supports the measure.
Opponents like Republican state Sen. John Moorlach of Orange County say the bond measure is a bad idea because it’s too costly. They claim that, with interest, the price would be closer to $8 billion.
"We don't need to add more debt,” Moorlach said. “Why do we have to wait to borrow money, which will then cost double the amount by adding another $4 billion in interest cost over the next 40 years."
He says the state should instead use money from its general fund to take care of future costs of repairing aging infrastructure and parks.
—Ezra David Romero
Should Fuel Tax Increases And Vehicle Fees Only Be Spent On Transportation Projects?
Prop. 69 would force the money raised by last year’s fuel-tax and vehicle-fee increases to only be used for transportation projects. It's part of last year's transportation funding deal at the state Capitol.
Rob Lapsley with the California Business Roundtable backs the proposition. He says his group didn’t support last year’s deal because it didn’t force Caltrans to speed up its permitting process.
But “as long as that measure is in effect, even if it’s not perfect — and it’s certainly from our perspective not perfect — then we need to ensure that the money goes to where it needs to go,” Lapsley said. “Our roads, our transportation network, our infrastructure can’t afford idealism. We have to have pragmatism.”
Republican state Sen. John Moorlach, who wrote a ballot argument against Prop. 69, says it’s an insult to taxpayers.
“Hey, you know, we’ve misappropriated and misspent your gas tax in the past, and because we have this sad addiction, we want to commit to you that we won’t misspend it again,” Moorlach said. “It’s almost lunacy that I have to tell my elected officials in Sacramento to spend a restricted revenue source on that restricted expenditure.”
The measure would lock the restriction on how the new transportation revenues could be spent into the California constitution.
You might have also heard about an effort to overturn last year’s fuel tax and vehicle fee increases. That’s a separate ballot measure backed by Republicans and taxpayer groups that voters could get to decide in the November election.
Change The California Constitution For One Vote … In 2024?
No proposition currently in front of California voters has a stranger story than Prop. 70. It would amend the state constitution to change one vote in the Legislature next decade.
Prop. 70 would require a two-thirds supermajority vote on how lawmakers spend billions of dollars in funds generated through the state cap-and-trade program — but only in 2024. And it has pit environmental groups and some Democratic lawmakers against Gov. Jerry Brown, a Republican Assemblyman, the California Chamber of Commerce and dairymen.
“It forces two-thirds of the Legislature to come together in 2024 to evaluate if the money has been spent wisely and beneficially for the good of all Californians,” the governor, Republican Assemblyman Chad Mayes and California Chamber of Commerce president Allan Zaremberg say, supporting the measure, in the official state voter guide.
Supporters argue the ballot measure would protect the funding from special interests, while opponents say special-interest groups such as the oil industry want to use it to derail climate programs.
“Proposition 70 grew out of an oil industry-backed effort to derail the state’s premiere program to curb harmful air pollution,” Democratic state Sen. Ben Allen, Assemblyman Todd Gloria and California League of Women Voters president Helen Hutchison wrote in the guide.
Really, though, the point of Prop. 70 is far simpler. The ballot measure is the unique result of a compromise between Brown, Democratic lawmakers and Mayes, the former Assembly Republican leader. They struck a deal last year to extend the state’s climate change program, cap-and-trade.
If voters pass it, the measure could give Republicans, who currently control only a third of the seats in the Legislature, a one-time say in how cap-and-trade money is spent. They could have leverage, for instance, to end funding for the high-speed rail program, which receives its primary funding from cap-and-trade.
Brown’s support for the measure, despite his support for high-speed rail, is his following-through on last year’s deal. Democrats who oppose the measure want to retain their ability to dispense cap-and-trade funds with a simple majority vote.
Constituencies have aligned on the side of political parties who they think most likely to spend cap-and-trade funds to their benefit.
The measure also includes an incentive for Republicans to avoid gridlock in 2024. Last year’s cap-and-trade deal also expanded sales tax exemptions for manufacturing equipment. Prop. 70 removes that exemption in 2024, until that year’s cap-and-trade funds are authorized with the required two-thirds vote.
Delay When Ballot Measures Take Effect?
In 2016, California voters approved a ballot measure to ban plastic bags, which went into effect the day after the election. That didn’t sit well with Ralph Shaffer, an emeritus professor of history at Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo.
"At that point, that they started collecting the 10 cents per bag, there were still five million ballots uncounted,” Shaffer said. “However, under the current interpretation of the law, if an initiative is ahead at midnight on Election Day, it goes into effect the next day, regardless of how many ballots are still out there."
So this year Shaffer spearheaded Prop. 71, which would change the effective date of initiatives to five days after they're certified by the Secretary of State's Office. Currently, ballot measures passed by voters go into effect the day after the election, unless the proposition states otherwise.
Kim Nalder, a professor of political science at Sacramento State, said there could be negative consequences with initiatives taking effect the day after the election, especially since more people are voting by mail
"Now in California, more than 50 percent of voters are vote-by-mail voters and that's probably going to increase,” she said. “And so it just makes sense for us to switch the effective date of initiates until we can get all the votes counted."
There is no organized opposition to the measure.
"This is as close to unopposed as any initiative ever gets,” Nalder said.
Incentive Homeowners To Collect More Rainwater?
Experts say California’s climate is changing and droughts will likely become more severe. To help conserve water, lawmakers want to incentivize homeowners to collect rainwater for use in landscaping.
Democratic state Sen. Steve Glazer introduced Prop. 72, which would make newly installed rainwater capture systems exempt from property taxes.
“The average roof of 1,500 square feet, in an average rainfall year, would capture 10,000 gallons of water that you could use on your property,” Glazer explained on Capital Public Radio’s Insight With Beth Ruyak.
If the measure is passed, it would work like the tax break for solar panel installation, meaning new rainwater systems won’t count toward the taxable value of the property where they’re installed.
However, Prop. 72 would only apply to rainwater capture systems that are installed after January 1, 2019.
It was put on the ballot on a unanimous vote in the Legislature and has no formal opposition.