Proposition 53 would reduce State budget flexibility | Sierra Club opposes
by Jim Metropulos, Legislative Representative, Sierra Club California
Proposition 53 removes budget flexibility without providing any certainty that
the programs with the greatest benefit—including environmental benefit—will be
Proposition 53 is a constitutional amendment that would set aside up to 3%
of the state general fund revenue every year to finance a variety of unspecified
infrastructure projects. It would be introduced gradually, starting at 1.3% in
2006-07 increasing to a maximum of 3% in 2013-14. The money would be divided between
the State and local governments. Projects might include repairs to state roadways
and public transit systems and work on public buildings, bridges, public water
and sewer systems, fire stations and hospitals.
No new revenue
Prop. 53 would not raise any revenues via the sale of bonds or by raising taxes.
Instead the initiative would earmark a portion of existing state revenue.
Prop. 53 is the result of a deal to settle the 2002 budget debate. Keith Richman
(R-Northridge) spawned the underlying legislation which the Democratic majority
agreed to let pass in exchange for Richman’s vote on the 2002 budget, ending a
Proponents of Prop. 53 argue that the initiative is needed because of the State’s
deteriorating infrastructure. Although Sierra Club California recognizes the importance
of upgrading public infrastructure, we disagree with the approach taken by Prop.
53 and oppose it.
Prop. 53 further reduces budget flexibility
Currently, 40% of incoming general funds are earmarked for K-12 and community
college education spending. Because of other earmarked funds, only between 25-30%
of State revenue can be spent in a discretionary manner.
Prop. 53 is vague
In addition, Prop. 53 doesn’t set priorities for which state or local infrastructure
projects should be funded. The initiative leaves it up to the Department of Finance
to prepare an annual plan on how to expend the infrastructure funds. The legislature
then has the option of using or ignoring this plan as the legislature decides
how to spend the money.
Prop. 53 threatens funding for environmental programs
Many environmental protection programs are funded by general funds. If yet
another piece of the general fund is locked up through a constitutional amendment,
the amount left for discretionary spending is reduced. Environmental protection
funded from the general fund include the Department of Fish and Game, Department
of Toxic Substance Control, and the California Air Resources Board. Vote NO on