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Bond measures

Because the stakes are so huge, four of five public works propositions on the ballot are deserving of approval.

October 29, 2006

CALIFORNIANS ARE BEING asked this year to approve five bond measures to repair and expand the state's long-neglected highways, levees, water systems, ports, schools and other infrastructure. The stakes are huge. Without investment, the state will be unable to serve its current residents, let alone prepare for a population that will keep growing in the coming decades. But $42.7 billion in new bonds would mean that nearly 6% of the state budget would be claimed for debt service each year. The Times has examined each bond measure and recommends the following:

Proposition 1B: Yes. This $19.9-billion transportation measure is the largest single bond in the group and in many ways the most desperately needed. The money would be used to relieve traffic congestion and repair roads and highways, making commuting to work and back less of a nightmare for Californians and also, not incidentally, encouraging continued economic investment by shippers and truckers who are growing weary of the state's decaying transit network. Ports would receive funding to reduce pollution while streamlining the movement of goods.

Proposition 1C: No. The spike in housing prices over the last decade has made this $2.85-billion housing bond appear attractive to many, and in fact there is some merit in funding new sanitation systems and environmental cleanup to encourage "infill" housing in tightly packed urban areas. But less than half of this bond would be spent on such projects. The rest would be spent on aid to home buyers and renters, who have a variety of other programs at their disposal. This proposition sprinkles money around in the name of a worthy cause, but we have real concerns about the effectiveness of the expenditures.

Proposition 1D: Yes. Voters continue to approve local bonds to build schools, but California still has a lot of catching up to do following decades of coasting on the investment of earlier generations. Rising construction costs mean even school districts with bond money to spend need a boost from this $10.4-billion bond to assure that children and young adults have a good environment for learning.

Proposition 1E: Yes. This $4.1-billion flood protection and disaster preparedness bond provides the best bang for the buck of all the measures in the package, paying for the maintenance and repair of crucial levees that were dangerously neglected in recent years for shortsighted cost savings. The failure of those levees would mean more than just flooding in low-lying areas hundreds of miles north of Los Angeles. It would mean the loss of a major anchor of the state's vitally important but increasingly vulnerable drinking water supply.

Proposition 84: Yes. This $5.3-billion water and parklands initiative bond, put on the ballot by voter petition, is numbered differently from the four placed by the Legislature but is an integral part of the package. It complements Proposition 1E with badly needed funding to clean up contaminated groundwater, and it pays for a host of programs to prevent and correct pollution of waterways, rivers and beaches.


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