Proposition 68 would authorize $4 billion in general obligation bonds for state and local parks, environmental protection and restoration projects, water infrastructure projects, and flood protection projects. Assuming a 3.5 percent interest rate over a 30-year period, the bond issue would generate $2.53 billion in interest, meaning the state would spend $6.53 billion to pay off the bond issue.
Peace and Freedom usually opposes bond measures, and we see no reason to change that position for this bond.
Of the $4 billion bond, only $1.3 billion is actually dedicated to improving parks. The remaining money may be spent on politicians' pet projects, as explained below.
Bond money is not distributed directly to areas in need. It is distributed through grants. Due to a grant process that has been in place for several years, bond money is rarely distributed fairly and equally across the state. It would break with the patterns of the past if the Inland Empire and rural areas see a penny of Prop. 68 park bond money. More likely, monies will be strategically distributed to wealthy areas by politicians.
The problem with the grant programs in place
Prop 68 states: “The sum of twenty-five million dollars ($25,000,000) shall be available to the department, upon appropriation by the Legislature, to administer a competitive grant program for cities, counties, and districts in nonurbanized areas, that are eligible for a grant under the Roberti-Z’berg-Harris Urban Open-Space and Recreation Program (RZH) Act.” (emphasis added)
Under the RZH the only rural eligible projects are ground water projects.
Another section of Prop 68:
“The sum of seven hundred twenty-five million dollars ($725,000,000) shall be available to the department, upon appropriation by the Legislature, for the creation and expansion of safe neighborhood parks in park-poor neighborhoods in accordance with the Statewide Park Development and Community Revitalization (SDCR) Act of 2008’s competitive grant program.” (emphasis added)
There’s a long list to qualify for this one that would require a department dedicated to it, but another section of Proposition 68 cuts to the problem without going through the list: “to correct historic under-investments in the central valley, Inland Empire, gateway, rural, and desert communities millions of dollars will be made available...”
Here Prop 68 admits to California’s “historic under-investments” in rural areas and the Inland Empire. Since RZH and SDCR are the main grant program resources for these areas, we know they are guilty of underfunding. And we can infer that is because the rules are inequitable. Prop 68 does not change eligibility rules. Therefore, even though millions of dollars will be made available to the Inland Empire and rural areas, those areas will probably continue to not qualify for funds under the current rules of the competitive grant programs. And unless it fits the agenda of legislators, the current rules are unlikely to change.
Estimates are that state parks require $1.2 billion for deferred maintenance. Yet, Prop. 68 allocates only a small amount of money for this essential task.
And this proposition that puts billions of uncommitted dollars into the hands of politicians, will burden the people of California with increased taxes for years to come.
California’s unrestricted net deficit is a quarter trillion dollars and it runs on a tight budget. It will take approximately $7 billion to pay off the $4 billion of borrowed funds. That means Californians today, their children and their grandchildren can expect a tax increase for the newly acquired $225 million-per-year debt incurred by Prop 68.