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No on Proposition 51

October 04, 2002

Want a railroad line right to your gambling casino, built with taxpayer money? Then pony up $250,000 to the Planning and Conservation League to get the organization's Proposition 51 on the Nov. 5 ballot. Want the state to buy your land in the Ballona Creek area--land that cannot be developed? Donate $800,000 to the league. Want a $2-million golf cart path along El Toro Road to Leisure World? A highway interchange that will allow you to build thousands of new homes? Get out the checkbook.

Critics say the league used "pay-to-play" tactics to qualify Proposition 51 for the ballot. A state senator called it pimping, adding that legislators would be jailed for doing such a thing. Any way you look at it, Proposition 51 is a bad idea spread across 19 pages of fine print that got on the ballot by dubious fund-raising techniques. California voters should reject Proposition 51 without a flicker of doubt.

Even Gerald Meral, the league's executive director, admits that "we picked projects where we thought people might contribute." The measure allocates more than $250 million to 45 projects, including $1 million a year for a new charter school in Oakland and $12 million for Lake Tahoe boats and docks.

Even worse, the ballot measure robs the state's general fund of about $1 billion a year in sales tax revenue to finance what is laughably called the Traffic Congestion Relief and Safe School Bus Trust Fund--actually 17 funds. In these dire financial times, the Legislature would have to cut even further into education, health care and other programs.

The initiative shortcuts state and municipal priorities for transportation projects. It substitutes the league's own wish list for the public good. In many cases, local officials said projects on the list were not a priority in their areas. Proposition 51 allocates $30 million for four railroad grade crossings near the San Bernardino airport where officials say there is no congestion.

Only 8% of the fund, roughly $80 million, would go to buy new school buses. But the measure gives more than $60 million to land conservation programs under the pretense that the money offsets the damage nearby highways have done to the environment.

California needs to fight traffic congestion, but not with Proposition 51. Vote no.

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