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Public Works Package Leads the Way

October 15, 2006|Evan Halper

Voters will encounter 13 statewide ballot measures next month involving such disparate subjects as levees, abortion, taxes, sex offenders and campaign contributions.

Five of the propositions are linked to a public works borrowing package hammered out in the Legislature. Lawmakers used their authority to put those measures on the ballot after months of negotiations with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The issue of improving California's roads, bridges, ports, schools, levees, water supply and housing dominated debate in the Capitol for much of this year.

The Legislature is asking Californians to borrow $37 billion for that purpose by voting on each of five pieces of the package. The measures are supported by a broad bipartisan coalition of business, labor, education and other groups. They face limited organized opposition.

The other eight statewide measures have proved more controversial. These initiatives were put on the ballot by advocacy groups or wealthy individuals through the laborious and costly petition process.

Several involve taxes, including a proposal from hospitals and healthcare groups to quadruple the tax on cigarettes. Tobacco companies have mounted a vigorous campaign against it.

Another proposal, backed by an education advocacy group, would add $50 to the annual tax bill of most California property owners. The money would be used for school programs.

Oil companies are the target of a proposal by environmentalists to tax their revenues and use the money to promote alternative energy. And some conservation groups are pushing a $5.4-billion bond to fund flood control projects, natural resource protection and park improvements.

Also on the ballot is a proposal, almost identical to one narrowly defeated in last year's special election, that would require parental notification before a minor could have an abortion.

As special interests pour hundreds of millions into these and other campaigns, another measure would impose political spending limits and inaugurate public financing of campaigns.

-- Evan Halper


Upgrading the State's Crumbling Structures

Propositions 1A -- 1E

Infrastructure Bonds

The Legislature put this package of mostly multibillion-dollar borrowing measures on the ballot to pay for modernization of the state's crumbling public works.

What they would do

* Proposition 1A -- Prevent the state from using the gasoline taxes it collects for anything other than transportation projects. In recent years, the state has raided that fund for other government programs.

* Proposition 1B -- Authorize $19.9 billion in borrowing to pay for transportation projects. More than half of the money would be used to improve and repair freeways and local roads. Another large chunk would be spent improving local public transit services. Funds would also be used to speed the movement of goods through ports and to improve disaster preparedness.

* Proposition 1C -- Authorize $2.8 billion in borrowing to build affordable housing for low-income and elderly Californians as well as emergency shelters for battered women and their children. The largest share of the money would be devoted to urban development near public transportation. The measure would also provide funds for down payment assistance to low- and medium-income Californians.

* Proposition 1D -- Authorize $10.4 billion in borrowing for construction and modernization of schools, community colleges and UC and Cal state schools. Includes funds the state could use to build facilities, retrofit old ones, replace portable classrooms and expand vocational education classroom space. Nearly a third of the money would be set aside for capital improvements at colleges and universities.

* Proposition 1E -- Authorize $4.1 billion in borrowing for levee improvements, flood control and flood mapping. Would enable the state to rebuild and repair its most vulnerable flood-control structures to protect homes and drinking-water supplies.

Chief proponents

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, state Treasurer Phil Angelides, California Chamber of Commerce, California Business Roundtable, California Federation of Labor, California Teachers Assn., League of California Cities, California State Assn. of Counties, Western Growers Assn.

Major donors in support

California Building Industry Assn., California Assn. of Realtors, Granite Construction Inc., Zenith Insurance Co., California State Council of Laborers.

Chief opponents

Proposition 1A: Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles).

Proposition 1B: Assemblyman Michael Villines (R-Clovis).

Proposition 1C: Assemblyman Chuck Devore (R-Irvine), State Board of Equalization Member Bill Leonard (R-San Bernardino).

Propositions 1D & 1E: California Taxpayer Protection Committee.

Major donors in opposition

No donations reported.

Main arguments in favor

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