ELECTION BRIEFS: Prop 53 - Revenue Bonds

Oct 5, 2016

This measure is all about revenue bonds. Bonds are the state’s way of borrowing money for projects that are too big to pay for all at once: big construction projects like dams, highways or bridges. Right now, the state doesn’t need voter approval to sell revenue bonds; they can just sell them to investors, regardless of the amount.

This is where voters come in. If Prop 53 passes, the state has to call a general vote every time the government wants to issue revenue bonds for public works projects that cost more than two billion dollars. Those would be projects like high speed rail, or the proposed delta tunnels that would divert water from the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta to the south part of the state.

The only funder of this proposition is a wealthy family from Stockton called the Cortopassis. They’ve raised over $4.5 million. They do not want the delta tunnels to be built, and other supporters argue that Prop 53 would discourage spending that could add to the state’s debt load.

Then there are the opponents. Governor Brown, the Democratic Party, and a handful of construction groups and labor unions don’t like Prop 53. So far they’ve spent over $3.5 million on the “vote no" campaign. They say they shouldn’t have to wait for an election year to respond to infrastructure emergencies like a big earthquake. They say voting would just add more red tape to growth. And they say voters from across the state should not decide what is best for a project that affects a local community.

So, if you want to vote on big projects vote yes on prop 53. If you think those decisions should be left to the government vote no. 

Citizen respondents to KALW's elections call-out contributed to this piece. It's part of our community reporting project.