A Guide to State And Local Measures

Friday February 27, 2004

Proposition 55 

The initiative calls for California to sell $12.3 billion in general obligation bonds for construction and renovation of K-12 schools and higher education facilities. 

School districts would have to demonstrate the need for new or modernized facilities.  

If the measure passes by the needed two-thirds majority, Berkeley Unified will seek $4 million for renovation work on the high school. UC Berkeley will seek money towards the retrofit of Giannini Hall and Davis Hall and the replacement of Campbell Hall. 

The LAO estimates the bonds would cost $24.7 billion to pay off over 30 years, with an average annual payment for principal and interest of $823 million. 

The ballot measure has been endorsed by the California Teachers Association, the California State PTA, the California Chamber of Commerce, Sen. Barbara Boxer and the California Taxpayers’ Association. The National Tax-Limitation Committee and State Senator Rico Oller have officially oppose it. 


Proposition 56 

Proposition 56, known as the Budget Accountability Act, is proposed to ensure on-time budgets from the California government. Whether it actually would, of course, is subject to debate. 

The largest change that the measure proposes is a reduction of the percentage of votes needed in both houses of the State Legislature to pass the budget and any budget-related tax and appropriation bills. Currently a budget must be passed by a two-thirds vote in both houses. Prop. 56 proposes that the number be dropped to 55 percent.  

Prop. 56 also requires the Legislature to set up a 25 percent reserve fund, to be spent only in case of certain emergencies.  

As a punishment for not passing the budget on time, Prop. 56 will require the Legislature to stay in session until the budget is passed, and both the Legislature and governor would permanently lose their salaries and expenses for each day the budget is late. The proposition prohibits legislators from punishing or threatening other legislators for their budget votes, though how that could be enforced is difficult to see. The proposition also calls for a link to a website with the voting records of each legislator on budget-related issues. Presumably, Prop. 56 proponents believe that alone would be punishment enough. 



Proposition 57 

Proposition 57 is Gov. Schwarzenegger’s proposed $15 billion economic recovery bond to pay off the state’s General Fund deficit. The bond is considered a one-time fix to get the state out of its present economic hole. The measure replaces former Gov. Davis’ $12 billion bond proposal, later held by the courts because it did not go before the voters. 

Prop. 57 will not increase taxes and instead will be re-paid over a nine to 14-year period using one-quarter cent of existing sales tax revenue. Prop. 57 is also closely tied to Prop. 58 and both have to pass together to go into affect. 



Proposition 58 

Proposition 58 amends the California constitution to require that it enact a balanced budget. Currently, the governor is required to propose a balanced budget but there’s no law to make the Legislature pass one. The measure also includes a clause that would explicitly prevent most bond financing of any future deficits. 

The second part of the measure requires the establishment of a reserve called the Budget Stabilization Account which will help repay the $15 billion bond proposed by Prop. 57. Funds for the Budget Stabilization Act will be taken from revenues slotted for the General Fund.  

Proposition 58 proponents say it will help to ensure that Prop. 57 is successful.  



Measure A 

The initiative would increase the county sales tax by a half-cent to raise an estimated $90 million a year for health services. If approved by a two-thirds majority, the county sales tax would rise to 8.75 percent—the highest in the state. The tax would sunset in 2019. 

Seventy-five percent would go to the Alameda County Medical System—the public hospital and health care network that includes Highland Hospital, with the remaining 25 percent divided among facilities that offer uncompensated public health services and community health clinics, including Berkeley-based Lifelong Medical. 

Supporters of the measure, including Supervisor Keith Carson, the Alameda County Taxpayers Association and the Alameda County Fire Department, argue that without the tax hike, the county would be forced to further reduce emergency services for all residents and primary care for poor and uninsured children and families. 

Dr. Lance Montauk argues the medical center mismanaged funds and was late in alerting county supervisors of the mounting debt. He pointed to improving economic fortunes in the county that could make a $90 million a year tax hike unnecessary.m