League says vote ‘yes’ on Props 55, 56 | TheUnion.com

League says vote ‘yes’ on Props 55, 56

Proposition 55, the Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2004, is part two of a plan for school construction and repair. The first part, Proposition 47, passed in 2002 with very strong voter support.

A good number of our public schools are old and outdated. At present we are expecting many of our children to learn in buildings with overcrowded classrooms, not to mention leaky roofs, inadequate restrooms, faulty wiring and fire alarm systems, inadequate earthquake protection. It can’t be done.

Under Proposition 55, school districts would receive funds for repairs and renovation of existing buildings and for the construction of badly needed new ones as well. (California has the dubious distinction of having the third most over-crowded classrooms in the nation.)

Community colleges, the State University and UC systems are also in need of the benefits they would receive from Proposition 55. More than half of the State University facilities are over 30 years old and are in critical need of safety renovation and modernization. Funds will go to libraries , labs, and research facilities. Many offices and classrooms are located in temporary buildings that should be replaced.

Some may argue that in such hard economic times the last thing we should be doing is spending more money. Education, though, is a long-term investment in our future citizens, one we would be foolish not to make. And we can expect that the passage of Proposition 55 will actually boost the economy by the creation of hundreds and thousands of jobs, as building and renovation projects get underway across the state.

Money matters, specifically budget gridlock, are also at the heart of Proposition 56, the Budget Accountability Act. This constitutional amendment reduces from two-thirds to 55 percent the number of votes required to pass the budget bill and other measures -including tax increases – related to the budget bill.

Only two other states in the nation, Arkansas and Rhode Island, have the two-thirds requirement. In California, it has encouraged legislators to hold out for pet projects in their districts or tax breaks for special interests. In other words, it has been an incentive to haggle rather than work toward compromise in order to produce a responsible and timely state budget. As it stands now, the governor and the Legislature have six months to adopt a budget. Yet not since 1986 has the Legislature met the constitutional deadline.

Under Proposition 56 for every day the budget is late, legislators would forfeit their salary and expenses. Furthermore, they would be required to remain in session until they had passed a budget.

Proposition 56 also requires legislators each year to set aside a fund of at least 5 percent in good economic times as a cushion against the necessity for tax increases and/or budget cuts in the bad times.

In conclusion, the League supports Proposition 55, in the interest of the school kids of today, the California citizens of tomorrow. And it sees in Proposition 56 the chance for real budget reform that holds our legislators accountable.

Vote with the League on March 2.

Sally Pansegrouw is on the Action Committee of the League of Women Voters of Western Nevada County

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