Four years ago, California voters approved Proposition 42 in what they hoped
would provide money for projects to ease traffic congestion by directing
fuel-tax revenues to transportation programs. But political leaders, looking
for money to balance the state budget, have twice tapped into the funds to
use the money for a myriad of other purposes. California spends about $20
billion annually to operate and maintain its road and transit systems. About
half that money comes from state and federal fuel taxes and truck-weight
fees, and the rest comes from local sales and property taxes and transit
The sales taxes on fuel come to about $2 billion annually, and it was this
money that Proposition 42 was intended to protect.
Proposition 1A seeks to limit future ability of politicians to suspend
Proposition 42. It would require that any diversion of funds be considered
as loans to the general fund, which means they would have to be paid back
with interest. It allows only two suspensions in a decade, and no raid on
the funds would be allowed unless any earlier suspension before 2007-08 had
been paid back in full.
Unlike the five infrastructure-bond proposals on the ballot, which borrow a
total of $42.7 billion and guarantee the payback by the state’s general
fund, Proposition 1A has no direct financial impact.
Supporters of Proposition 1A, who include the head of the Highway Patrol and
the president of the state Chamber of Commerce, believe it would boost the
economy and ease gridlock, while opponents, including Assemblywoman Jackie
Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, say it would hamstring budget writers attempting to
balance the state’s books.
Proposition 1B is the biggest single bond proposal ever to confront
California voters. At nearly $20 billion and adjusted for inflation,
Proposition 1B is double the size of the landmark ballot proposition that
financed the State Water Project during the administration of Gov. Pat
Proposition 1B, like the other infrastructure bonds, is backed by Democratic
and Republican political leaders, including Gov. Schwarzenegger. It would
authorize the state to borrow $20 billion to pay for traffic-easing
transportation projects, air-quality improvements, local-road improvements,
highway construction and rail and transit programs, including the purchase
of railcars and locomotives. It would also retrofit and replace school
buses, improve the safety of rail crossings, strengthen bridges and
overpasses, and improve security at public harbors and ferry facilities.
Despite Proposition 1B’s enormous dollar figure, the bond would provide less
than one-fifth of the improvements needed to bring California’s aging and
overworked transportation system up to snuff, according to experts and
supporters of the proposal. But borrowing such a huge sum is more
politically palatable to the public–and to the politicians who would take
the heat–than levying new taxes and financing the projects in a
The projects would be determined competitively with the state Transportation
Commission and regional bodies weighing in. In the end, the bulk of the
money would go, not surprisingly, to Southern California counties and the
San Francisco Bay Area.
The stiffest opposition to Proposition 1B, as well as to the other bonds on
the ballot, comes from anti-tax groups, who believe the state already has
accumulated too much debt. But supporters are quick to point out that even
if all $42.7 billion worth of borrowing is approved, the state would be just
below the debt ceiling of 6 percent of its annual budget–an arbitrary figure
devised by Wall Street to ascertain creditworthiness.
At $2.9 billion, Proposition 1C is the smallest of the
infrastructure-improvement bonds. It would provide money for low-income and
affordable housing, including apartment units, farm-worker housing, new
construction, new and renovated homeless shelters, and shelters for battered
women and runaway youngsters. Money would also be made available to help
low-income families buy homes–a critical need in California, where 21 of the
nation’s 25 most expensive housing markets are located.
According to economists, only 14 percent of California families can afford
to buy a home. The median cost of a home in the state is $561,000, and more
than 360,000 Californians are homeless.
About $1.5 billion of the money raised by Proposition 1C would go toward
housing construction and home-purchasing assistance. Most of the balance
would help finance housing-related development, including parks,
infrastructure and open-space preservation.
Supporters include low-income housing advocates, veterans and seniors.
Opponents include prominent Republican lawmakers and anti-tax groups.
According to just about everybody who follows California politics–pollsters,
consultants, journalists, elected officials, Capitol staffers, local
officials and even real voters–education ranks at or near the top of the
Proposition 1D, the latest and largest in a long series of school bonds that
have gone before the public during the last three decades, would provide
$10.4 billion for education–$7.3 billion for K-12 and $3.1 billion for
higher education. The single largest pot of money, $3.3 billion, would be
used to renovate and modernize K-12 schools, and another $2 billion would go
to new construction. Proposition 1D also includes about $1.5 billion for
community college overhauling existing buildings, buying equipment and other
It also includes $500 million for charter schools and another $500 million
to boost technical and vocational education.
Backers note that Proposition 1D will ease overcrowding, provide safer, more
modern facilities and improve learning. Opponents say the payout on the bond
will exceed $20 billion, and that the plan includes new, untried programs
that could backfire.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, levee protection became a hot issue in
California. Especially in the state capital, Sacramento, which is located at
the confluence of two major rivers and, with some exceptions, is flat as a
pancake. The city also has extensive new developments that are directly
protected by levees.
Proposition 1E would provide $4.09 billion for infrastructure projects for
flood protection and levee upgrades, including levees in the vulnerable
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta east of Sacramento, through which flows
about 80 percent of the state’s drinking water. The bond includes money for
seismic upgrades and flood management. The biggest slice of money, some $3
billion, targets the Delta levees and the Central Valley Flood Control
System, with projects designed to protect the Valley’s rapidly expanding
Another $300 million is set aside for storm-water-management programs,
include flood-control bypasses.
The measure is backed by state emergency and environmental officials,
including the head of the Office of Emergency Services and the chief of the
state Environmental Protection Agency. Opponents include the anti-tax group,
the California Taxpayer Protection Committee.
A Republican-backed attempt by Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, to
crack down on sexual offenders was blocked in the Legislature, but Runner’s
husband, state Sen. George Runner, revived the plan and put together an
initiative campaign that qualified the proposal known as “Jessica’s Law” for
the November ballot.
Proposition 83 would make significant increases to penalties for sexual
offenders. It would change existing law to bar sex offenders from living
feet of any school or park. Under current law, only sexually
violent predators, or SVPs, are prohibited from living within 2,640 feet of
such locations. Proposition 83 would apply to virtually all offenders, not
just the violent ones.
It would track all felony offenders with a lifelong global-positioning
system (GPS), and expand the definition of SVPs, as well as increasing
penalties and definitions of sex offenses. Support for the proposition comes
from Gov. Schwarzenegger, the Crime Victims United of California, a victims’
advocacy group, and TV commentator Bill O’Reilly’s “Jessica’s Law Campaign.”
Opponents argue that Proposition 83 would cost the state $500 million
annually and not increase child safety. They contend that the increased
tracking will harm first-time, nonviolent offenders, as well as weaken the
ability of police to enforce the new laws effectively. Opponents include the
California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, California Coalition Against
Sexual Assault, and the California Coalition on Sexual Offending.
Media attention on Proposition 83 has included editorials in The Sacramento
Bee and the L.A. Times, which both criticized the measure’s effectiveness.
The San Diego Union Tribune and The Bakersfield Californian editorialized in
favor of the measure.
Proposition 83, or Jessica’s Law, is named after Jessica Lunsford, a
9-year-old girl who was kidnapped and killed by a convicted sex offender who
had not reported his address to authorities.
By the time voters work their way down the ballot through four
multibillion-dollar measures to Proposition 84, they will have been asked to
open their wallets wide indeed. Supporters of this huge water bond hope that
voters won’t be tapped out.
Proposition 84 would, through borrowing, provide $5.4 billion for
environmental protections, state and local park upgrades, drinking-water
quality, flood control and conservation, among other things. If approved,
Proposition 84 would cost the state $10.5 billion over 30 years to pay off
the principal and interest, with payments of $350 million annually. This
proposition is accompanied by five other bond measures, all aimed at
borrowing money through the sale of bonds, for state transportation,
education, and infrastructure projects.
The California Taxpayer Protection Committee, which opposes Proposition 84,
claims that the initiative was sponsored by special interests and will
ultimately serve those interests at the expense of taxpayers. Bill Leonard,
member of the California State Board of Equalization, argues that the
measure will change what should be locally funded projects into statewide
issues, thereby forcing many districts to help fund projects all over the
state. As for the goal of the measure, opponents dispute that any
significant funds will be allocated towards building fresh water reservoirs
and repairing levees.
The “Yes on 84” website lists supporters from across the state, ranging from
environmental and conservation groups to state and assembly members to
business and labor organizations. Proponents of the bond measure argue that
Proposition 84 will remove dangerous chemicals from the water supply,
prevent toxic runoff, clean and safeguard the ocean, and will not raise
The hot-button issue of abortion, the focus of political fights in
California for decades, is back again–this time in the form of Proposition
85, which requires a two-day notification period before a minor can obtain
If passed, Proposition 85 would amend a 1953 law that allows “minors to
receive the same types of medical care allowed to adults without parental
Specifically, Proposition 85 requires a physician to notify the parent or
legal guardian of a pregnant minor at least 48 hours before performing an
abortion. Minors could opt out of the notification requirement in the case
of a medical emergency (cases in which an abortion could prevent harm to the
mother), with a waiver approved by a parent or guardian that specifies
notification requirements and a waiting period, or a court approved waiver.
This proposition would also require physicians to file a report with the
Department of Health Services within one month after performing an abortion
on a minor.
The governor supports Proposition 85, as he supported Proposition 73, a
nearly identical ballot measure in 2005 that voters rejected.
Supporters of Proposition 85 argue that minors are required to have parental
consent for minor medical treatments, such as receiving aspirin from a
school nurse, but are not required to notify of a much more significant
procedure like an abortion. They also claim that the measure will decrease
the number of abortions by minors, and decrease sexual offenses by removing
the privacy and anonymity sexual offenders have in cases of underage
Groups that oppose Proposition 85 include the League of Women Voters,
Planned Parenthood, and a variety of other medical organizations. These
groups argue that studies taken from other states which have enacted similar
legislation offer no significant evidence of a decrease in underage
abortions or sexual offenses. Arguments have also been made that many minors
could be put at risk when required to notify parents who may throw the minor
out of the home or harm them physically. Opponents suggest that, if enacted,
Proposition 85 will put minors at risk by forcing them to put off abortions
until late in the pregnancy, whether due to a fear of notifying a parent or
the time and energy required to get a court issued waiver.
It may come down to people’s thirst for hurting tobacco companies.
Proposition 86 would impose $2.60 per pack tax on a pack of cigarettes. This
would bring total taxes to $3.47, highest in the nation.
Not surprisingly, money and rhetoric have poured into this race. On one side
are an odd coalition of health-care advocates and private hospitals. In
December, a coalition of children’s health-care groups made a deal with the
California Hospital Association to merge two proposed initiatives into what
became Proposition 86. Critics have grumbled that hospitals got too much
money and children too little.
Cigarette companies and anti-tax groups have billed it as a $2 billion tax
hike–while simultaneously claiming it won’t bring in nearly as much as it
claims to. Former state Department of Finance director Donna Arduin released
a report last week with the California Taxpayers Association claiming that
the Legislative Analyst Office had vastly overestimated the amount of money
the tax would bring in. Others warned of rampant criminality ensuing as
people smuggled tobacco as they now smuggle drugs.
The No on 86 committee has taken in $29.5 million–with all but about $2
million coming from Philip Morris. This money appears to be paying off.
According to an October 4 Field Poll, support for the measure has fallen
from 63 percent to 53 percent since July; opposition has jumped from 32
percent to 40 percent.
Who is less popular than tobacco companies? That might come down to a race
between John Mark Carr and oil companies.
But unlike smokers, who are a minority, almost everyone uses gas. And unlike
tobacco companies, oil companies appear to be winning their battle by
playing on people’s fears of high gas prices.
Proposition 87 would tax of about $4 billion a year oil production within
California. This would be earmarked to improve air quality and grantee local
school funding. Heavyweights like Bill Clinton and Al Gore have campaigned
on behalf of the measure.
Several other big oil producing states–notably red state strongholds Alaska
and Texas–have such taxes. Critics claim that
these taxes are offset by the
lower taxes and general cost of doing business these states provide.
Meanwhile, they have also questioned the whether it is legal to prevent oil
companies from passing these costs on to consumers.
Similar to Proposition 86, business interests have spent big to stop 87.
Californians Against Higher Taxes–No on 87 has taken in $45 million, with
essentially all of it coming from energy companies. Chevron alone has poured
in $21.8 million.
According to the Oct. 4 Field Poll, support for the measure has dropped to
44 percent, down from 52 percent in July. Opposition grew from 31 percent to
This measure would create a new, $50 tax per property parcel that would
generate an estimated $450 million per year to be used for K-12 education.
The measure stipulates that the new money must be used for class size
reduction programs ($175 million), textbooks ($100 million), school safety
($100 million). The measure would also set aside $85 million in facilities
and modernization money for any school which has not receive state school
The measure is supported by businessmen Reed Hasting and John Doerr, but
lagging poll numbers have left the measure to be all but orphaned, without
an aggressive campaign in support. The No campaign, led by anti-tax groups
and several education groups, has been similarly quiet, with the expectation
that Proposition 88 will quietly go down to defeat.
Proposition 89 would require candidates for elected office to receive a
minimum number of $5 contributions (those numbers range from 750 for an
Assembly candidate to 25,000 for a candidate for governor).
Allows candidates who do not take any private contributions to receive
public money to finance their campaigns. Candidates for the Assembly would
receive $400,000 each; statewide candidates would receive $2 million and
gubernatorial candidates would each receive $15 million. The money to
finance these campaigns would come from a new annual tax on banks and
corporations, which would bring in an estimated $200 million annually.
The measure would also prohibit lobbyists from making political
Proposition 89 is modeled after public campaign financing programs in Maine
and Arizona. Its supporters include California Common Cause and the
California Nurses Association.
Opponents of the measure form an odd collection of political interests. The
California Teachers Association fears the measure would limit the union’s
ability to make political contributions. Other opponents include Chevron,
PhRMA and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
Proposition 90 is California’s reaction to a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court’s
ruling that gave government expanded powers to seize land for public or
private development. But opponents say Proposition 90 would undermine local
governments’ ability to make local planning decisions.
The battle lines over this measure traverse the traditional political
boundaries. The California Chamber of Commerce and the California Taxpayers
Association are leading opponents of the measure, while many conservative
Republicans, including GOP lieutenant governor nominee Tom McClintock and
Assemblywoman Mimi Walters strongly support the measure.
Opponents say the law could weaken consumer protection and environmental
The measure is the brainchild of New York millionaire Howard Rich, the
former head of U.S. Term Limits who is taking his eminent domain cause
around the country, state by state.