Proposition 53 would force any large public works project financed with revenue bonds to go to a public vote. Greater protection for taxpayers against uncontrolled cost overruns and exorbitant debt would seem like a good idea. But there’s a catch. This ostensibly applies only to projects of $2 billion or more, which includes the governor’s $17 billion plan to build two massive tunnels to convey water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. That’s what this measure is really all about.
Proposition 53 is financed primarily by multimillionaire Dean “Dino” Cortopassi, a 78-year-old landowner, farmer and businessman from Stockton who is strongly opposed to the tunnel plan. He claims he is more motivated by mounting public debt and controlling costs of massive public works projects that end up costing far more than planned — think Bay Bridge renovation — than protecting his own agriculture business interests. He says only 5 percent of his income is related to Delta water.
But here’s the other problem. The revenue bonds could only be approved by voters during a general election, which only occurs every two years. In addition, the proposition is poorly worded, leaving it unclear as to what projects would be covered. How it will be applied would likely be subject to court battles for years. In the process, it could tie the hands of state and local officials and delay critically needed infrastructure projects. If you don’t take our word for it, here’s the analysis provided by the nonpartisan state Legislative Analyst’s Office: “The fiscal effects of this measure on state and local governments are subject to substantial uncertainty. In particular, it is unclear how certain provisions of the measure would be interpreted by government agencies and the courts, which could affect the number of projects subject to the measure’s voter requirements.”
Californians have too many examples of approving poorly worded ballot measure that merely end up costing the state time and money as the issues get worked out in court. It doesn’t need one more. Vote no on Proposition 53.