LA WATCHDOG--Proposition 68 (Authorizes bonds funding parks, natural resources protection, climate adaptation, water quality and supply, and flood protection) represents an excellent opportunity to send our less than transparent Elected Elite a loud and clear message that we are not their ATM. And furthermore, a NO vote will also send the message that we do not trust our State, County, and City officials to be prudent stewards of our hard earned money.
If passed by the voters, the State will be authorized to sell $4.1 billion in bonds. But there is no list of specific projects like we saw in Measure M (the half cent increase in our sales tax to fund Metro projects). Rather, you have to wade through a dense 15,000 word ballot measure that requires a graduate degree to comprehend this proposition according to a ballot rating service. And even then you need a strong working knowledge of the state and its bureaucracy to understand all the cross references to other laws, rules, and regulations.
Sacramento, the State’s political establishment, and the Proposition 68’s many deep pocketed sponsors are appealing to the voters by selling this $4.1 billion measure as supporting clean rivers, protecting the oceans, water recycling, climate change, parks for the underserved, and even the great outdoors. But more than likely, the lack of specifics means that the Sacramento legislators and their crony contractors will line up at the trough to fund their pet projects.
No wonder the State has not provided for independent oversight and monitoring to ensure the efficient use of our money.
There is also the question of whether the State should incur more debt as we already have the highest level of debt in the country. And this debt burden does not include hundreds of billions of unfunded pension and other retirement liabilities.
Rather, the Prop 68 initiatives should be financed by the General Fund budget that has increased by almost 60% over the last seven years to $135 billion.
In November, we will be asked to approve two bond measures for almost $13 billion: an $8.9 billion bond for water quality and a $4 billion bond for affordable housing. This is in addition to the $9 billion bond that was approved in 2016 for education and $7.5 billion bond in 2014 for water quality.
These five bonds total more than $33 billion. And this does not include the interest that will add more than $30 billion to the taxpayers’ bill.
We also need to brace ourselves for the November onslaught.
The County will ask us to approve a $300-400 million parcel tax to finance its stormwater plans (affectionately known as the Rain Tax after the comment made in 2013, “God gave us rain and you figured out how to tax it.”).
And more than likely, we will see an effort by the Los Angeles Unified School District to raise billions to finance its operations, repair its neglected facilities, and fund its unfunded pension and other retirement liabilities.
The City of Los Angeles may also be out to pick our pockets as it has reserved $4.5 million to pay to be on the November ballot.
Since 2016, Angelenos have been hit up for $2.4 billion in new taxes.** This includes the City and our share of taxes for the County (40%), the Community College (75%), and the State (10%). All this equates to $2,400 for a family of four, a 4% bump in our sales tax, or a more than 40% increase in our real estate taxes.
And what have we gotten in return? Not much other than continuing Structural Deficits, a deteriorating infrastructure, and billions in unfunded pension and other retirement liabilities.
And certainly not a balanced budget despite the all the hot air from Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Paul Krekorian, the chair of the Budget and Finance Committee of the Los Angeles City Council.
Vote NO on Proposition 68 and send a message to all our not so trustworthy elected officials throughout the State that we are not their ATM.
** These taxes include the increase in the DWP transfer tax associated with the 2016 $1 billion rate increase; HHH, the $1.2 billion homeless bond; the City’s linkage fee; the $3.3 billion bond for the Community College; the Metro sales tax; the County’s parcel tax for parks; Measure H, quarter of a cent sales tax increase for homeless services; the income tax surcharge (proposition 55); the cigarette tax; and the State’s gas tax. It does not include the impact of the cap and trade taxes.
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. He can be reached at: [email protected].)