Upcoming Proposals that Could Lower Thresholds for Passing Ballot Measures for Transportation Funding

3 September 2009

At the August meeting of the Green L.A. Transportation Work Group, Move L.A.‘s Denny Zane presented briefly about a proposed 2010 ballot measure that would make it easier for voters to approve transit funding. Move L.A. is part of a fledgling effort so-far called the Coalition to Protect Local Vital Services. It’s a statewide effort to initiate and pass a ballot proposition that would lower the percentage of votes needed to pass local funding initiatives.

Since the passage of California’s Proposition 13 in 1978,  a two-thirds supermajority is required to pass ballot propositions that raise taxes. This 2/3rds requirement applies to statewide and local ballot measures. For example, Measure R, last year’s county-wide sales tax for transportation funding, barely passed with  67.9% of the vote. The 2/3rds requirement has caused govermental funding for… well… vital local services to dwindle over time. It impacts not only transportation funding, but also education, healthcare, and many many other governmental programs. It also contributes to volatility in govermental budgets which swing from surpluses in boom years to deficits today. 

In 2000, California voters passed Prop 39 which lowered the threshold to 55% for passage of school bond funding. The new proposed not-yet-named not-yet-finalized ballot proposition, targeted for fall 2010, would lower the threshold to 55% for other local ballot funding measures. This would include transportation initiatives (like Measure R), as well as school operations and maintenance, libraries, stormwater, police, parks, etc.

So far, the Coalition to Protect Vital Local Services has been energized  by polling that shows that Californians are frustrated with the difficulties of funding services via a gridlocked dysfunctional state government, hence there is support for allowing local municipalities to more easily raise their own funds. The polling, conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin and Associates,  is summarized in this memo and this presentation. If you’re interested in getting involved in this 55% initiative, contact Move L.A. locally. GLATWG will try to make more information available as we find it.

There’s also a broader multi-year effort to organize and mobilize to undo even more provisions of Prop 13. It’s part of a statewide effort called the California Alliance, which includes the Los Angeles organization SCOPE, whose organizer I heard about it from. I expect to share more on this campaign, too, as it emerges.

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