A Look at State Props. 1A, 84, 1E, 89

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday November 03, 2006

Proposition 1A—Transportation Funding Protection 

Laws and constitutional amendments locking in state and federal spending to specific areas have become popular these days, as lawmakers have taken to borrowing money from specified funds to increase the general fund. Prop 1A is one of those lock-box measures. 

Under Proposition 42 passed by California voters in 2002, most revenue from the state’s gasoline tax is limited to funding the state’s various transportation needs. Prop 42 contained a provision that allowed the state to suspend those provisions and transfer gas tax money to other parts of the budget when the state is facing fiscal problems. According to the State Legislative Analyst, “Proposition 42 is silent as to whether suspended transfer amounts are to be repaid to transportation.” 

Prop 1A would end that silence. 

The measure requires that any transfer of money to the general fund under Prop 42 suspensions would be treated as loans from the transportation fund, not outright gifts, with strict rules on how and when that money must be refunded. In addition, it limits such transfers to twice in ten years, and prohibits new transfers until the old transfer money has been paid back. 

Twice since 2002, in fact, Prop 42 was suspended during state budgetary crises. 

Proponents of Prop 1A says the measure prevents gas tax money from being a slush fund that lawmakers can raid whenever the state gets in fiscal trouble. 

Opponents say that if we continue to lock in funds out of the budget for specific projects, we limit the ability of the governor and the legislature in future times to meet unforeseen circumstances. 


Proposition 89—Political Campaigns. Public Financing. Corporate Tax Increase. Campaign Contribution and Expenditure Limits. 

A yes or no vote on this proposition boils down to whether the voter thinks there should be public financing for elections. 

Prop 89 is written in the standard way state and local campaign finance laws have appeared in other places around the country. The measure would provide public campaign money for candidates who do not accept private campaign donations or use their own money to finance their campaigns, and who agrees to certain other restrictions. The money provided ranges from $250,000 for a State Assembly candidate to $15 million for a candidate for Governor. 

The money to finance these campaigns would come from a 0.2 percent raise in the state income tax on corporations. 

The proposed new law would not prevent candidates from opting out of public financing, but for those who choose to continue to get private donations, it would put severely stricter limits on such donations than are now present. 

For the State Assembly races in the general election, for example, individual, group or corporate donations are allowed up to $3,300; Prop 89 would cut that limit down to $500. Small contributor committees currently are limited to $6,700 in donations per assembly candidate; Prop 89 would limit that to $2,500. And while there is currently no limit on political party donations to assembly candidates, Prop 89 would impose a $20,000 limit. Prop 89 private contribution limits would be somewhat lower in the primaries. 

While limiting private contributions from individual donors, Prop 89 would also seek to discourage candidates from spending more than the publicly funded candidates are getting. For every dollar the privately funded candidate was spending over the public limit, Prop 89 provides one more dollar for the publicly-funded opponent. The idea is that if privately funded candidates get no money advantage from raising more money, they have no reason to raise more money, and the overall cost of the campaign would be held down.  

The proposition is opposed by business associations and corporations as well as taxpayer organizations. Unions have been split on the issue with some (the California Federation of Teachers, the California State Council of Laborers, the California State Firefighters Association, and the California Teachers Association, for example) in opposition, and the California Nurses Association and the California Teamsters in favor. The proposition is supported by civic organizations such as AARP, the League of Women Voters, and California Common Cause. 


Proposition 1E—Disaster Preparedness and Flood Prevention 

Proposition 84—Water Quality, Safety and Supply. Flood Control. Natural Resource Protection. Park Improvements. 

Prop 1E would authorize $4.1 billion in bonds to set up a Disaster Preparedness and Flood Prevention Bond Fund to be administered by the state Department of Water Resources (DWR), which would establish priorities, design projects, and prepare an annual plan for the uses of federal, state, and local funds. 

$3 billion of Prop 1E would go to repair and build levees and other flood control projects, $3 billion for Central Valley Flood Control System and Delta Levees, $500 million for the state's share of federally authorized Central Valley flood control projects, $300 million for grants to local agencies not in the Central Valley for stormwater management programs, and $290 million to create, enhance, and protect flood corridors. 

Proposition 84 authorizes another $5.4 billion in water-related bonds, some of which also involve flood control. Of that money, $1,535 million would go to various water quality projects, $928 million to protection of rivers, lakes, and streams, $800 million to flood control, $ 580 million to something called “sustainable communities,” $ 540 million to beaches, bays, and coastal water, $500 million to state parks and nature education & research, $450 million to forests and wildlife conservation, and $65 million to statewide water management and planning.” 

The placement of both 1E and 84 on the November 7 ballot gives California voters a sort of mix and match on how we want to fund water-related projects in the near future. 

Voters who think that protection from floods as well as enhancing water quality is extremely important may want to vote for the spending of the full $9.5 billion in the two measures. Voters who think that this is too much indebtedness, but who are leery of breaking levees after Katrina, can opt for 1E only, which focuses on the levees and the flood plain. On the other hand, voters who don’t want to spend a full $9.5 billion, who think that flooding is a problem that needs to be addressed, but who think that the other Prop 84 projects are necessary, can vote against 1E and for 84. And, finally, for those who either think that we are already too much in state debt for anything, or who think that the projects listed in either ballot measure are necessary, can vote down both.