California voters have less than two months to make up their minds on propositions that could have a profound effect on their lives.
On Nov. 7 – besides voting for governor – 13 ballot initiatives will be on the agenda. Whether placed on the ballot by the state Legislature or by petition signatures, a myriad of issues will soon be decided.
Relevant to CSUN students are measures affecting education, transportation infrastructure, disaster preparedness and conservation, all of which come with a hefty price tag.
With a 2006-07 operating budget deficit of $6.4 billion, according to the California Budget Project, voters may want to choose their issues wisely.
Christopher Shortell, CSUN assistant professor of political science, helped narrow them down for students.
“The most prominent is proposition 1D, which would authorize grants for the construction of buildings at the K-12 and higher education levels,” he said. “The CSU system would receive $690 million for the construction of new buildings.”
Dubbed the Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2006, proposition 1D proposes the disbursement of a $10.4 billion bond to “provide needed funding to relieve public school overcrowding and to repair older ones.”
Opponents charge that state costs of about $20.3 billion to pay off both the principal ($10.4 billion) and interest ($9.9 billion) on the bonds is too much. In all, the state would be making payments of about $680 million per year for the next 30 years, according to the official California Legislative Analyst’s Office summary.
However, education advocates like CSUN international student Omar Abuassaf see no other alternative.
“Education is an issue that can’t be ignored,” he said. Abuassaf, who hails from Syria, is not afforded the luxury of voting in the U.S. Yet he still offers perspective. “It’s (education) a measurement of how developed that country is.”
Proposition 88, or the Education Funding Real Property Parcel Tax Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute, would provide an additional $450 million annually for public school funding for students in kindergarten through grade 12. In order to raise the funds, however, a $50 tax would be imposed on most parcels of land in California, on top of current property taxes.
CSUN business major Joe Hood said he owns a three-bedroom home in Venice, and estimates that he pays $3,000 to $4,000 in property taxes annually. “There’s already taxes that are supposed to be helping out with some of the schools,” he said. “Now they’re putting it on paper, but we don’t know if it’s (money) going to schools.”
Tom Hogen-Esch, CSUN assistant professor of political science, said students should be more concerned with money spent on the state’s aging infrastructure.
“They’re (students) the ones who would be most impacted on any lack of infrastructure,” he said. Hogen-Esch said California has not invested in its infrastructure in 35 to 40 years. “Supporters are arguing it’s time to spend some money on things like transportation, housing, levees and ports.”
In fact, the Transportation Funding Protection Legislative Constitutional Amendment, or Proposition 1A (albeit an amendment to formerly passed proposition 42), is intended by supporters to reserve funding for California’s decaying roadways. If passed, even in the case of an emergency, state officials would not have the right to divert gas tax funds away from their intended use – roadway improvements. “When the state was $8 billion in debt, the legislature and governor understandably exercised that option,” Shortell said. “Prop. 1A is an attempt to change the terms of Prop. 42.”
The major infrastructure-related proposition is 1B. The Highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality, and Port Security Bond Act of 2006 would allow the state to sell $19.9 billion in general obligation bonds. Supporters say 1B would “jump-start” traffic relief, mass transit and safety improvements in every corner of the state – without raising taxes. However, state costs of approximately $38.9 billion over 30 years would be needed to repay the bonds, and poses the quandary of infrastructure improvement over debt.
“The larger concern for voters in November will probably be the size of debt that the state is being asked to assume through all of the bond issues on the ballot,” Shortell said, citing the “always contentious” question of desirable purposes vs. debt.
Another hot-button issue is the Waiting Period and Parental Notification before Termination of Minor’s Pregnancy Initiative to the Constitutional Amendment. Also known as Proposition 85, this amendment was put on the ballot by petition signatures. When it comes to minors receiving abortions, proponents say they do not want them to have the same rights as adults. Proposition 85 would require physicians to contact parents or guardians before an abortion is performed on a minor.
CSUN liberal arts major Lindsay Adams said she does not think abortion is a good form of birth control.
“By allowing a minor to have an abortion without parental consent, they (minors) are given free reign to make a life and death decision they’re not developmentally ready for,” she said.
If passed, opponents say Proposition 85 could lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade and banning of all abortions.
Other social issues on the ballot include Propositions 1C and 83.
While 1C deals with a wide range of housing issues for the homeless, 83 increases penalties for violent and habitual sex offenders.
With such a wide body of issues coming out of this year’s election ballot, CSUN graduate student David Carson offered fellow students some advice.
“Put in time,” he said. “People need to look clearly at issues. You can’t get a feeling for what’s going on unless you read the full proposition and see the little caveats that are in there.”
The California Legislative Analyst’s Office is one entity which presents unbiased data on the propositions.
The office offers an easy to follow ballot measure summary, which voters are encouraged to take with them to the polls. It explains what your vote – or lack thereof – will mean and offers useful pro and con arguments, along with sources for additional information.
For a quick reference pullout guide of your own, visit the Attorney General’s Web site at www.ss.ca.gov.