Look again at props’ funding sources | TheUnion.com

Look again at props’ funding sources

The League of Women Voters of California is recommending a “yes” vote on all but two of the state ballot propositions. The League is opposing Propositions 49 and 51.

In the first part of this article, I would like to comment on those two – the issues involved, and the reasons for the League’s opposition. Proposition 49 first:

This initiative would require that beginning in 2004-05, the state meet a minimum $550 million level of spending for the After School Education and Safety Program (to be renamed from the before and after school programs already in place).

Well. That sounds as good as motherhood and apple pie. Why would the League of Women Voters, a staunch advocate for education and child safety, be against it?

The answer is in the League’s longstanding opposition to the earmarking of funds for particular programs, thus placing those programs in perpetuity outside the annual budget process. With regard to Proposition 49, the League refers to “tough economic times such as we now face, when hard choices between competing needs must be made.It could take money away from other critical needs like health care, environmental protection, public safety and other children’s programs.”

Nor is it as if the state did not already fund the program presently in place, the Before and After School Learning and Safe Neighborhoods Partnership Program. In 2001-02 the program received $93.4 million in funds requiring a local match. In addition this year the state spent $475 million with no match required. All Proposition 49 funding, on the other hand, would require matching funds from the school district, thus placing poorer districts at a disadvantage.

The same concern about the earmarking of funds is behind the League’s opposition to Proposition 51. As it is now, all sales tax revenue from the lease and sale of used and new motor vehicles goes into the General Fund. Under the proposed measure, 30 percent, or about $1 billion of those tax monies, would go into 45 programs. Again, some of those programs fall in categories the League would ordinarily support – mass transit, bicycle and pedestrian improvements, for example. But the programs have little accountability and many benefit substantial contributors to Proposition 51.

Most important, though, in the League’s view, is that Proposition 51, like Proposition 49, would tie up a certain percentage of funds each year forever, both in good times and bad. In neither case could the provisions be changed by the Legislature. The League is also concerned that the success of these ballot measures might establish a precedent that would encourage other special interests, with ample campaign resources, to follow suit in the future. Such a trend could ultimately squeeze essential programs out of the budget process altogether.

In regard to local issues, the league in Western Nevada County is supporting Measure C. In 1998, LWVWNC supported its predecessor, the successful Measure B, which provided for a five-year, one-eighth-cent sales tax to be devoted solely to county library services. As most readers are probably aware, the current measure would continue that revenue source for the next 15 years.

Both times we have acted on the basis of a local library study, chaired by Eloise Gregory in 1990, and updated in a study some years later under the direction of Jackie Wilson. In summary, these are the conclusions of the 1990 study:

— Every person should have equal access to free public libraries.

— Adequate libraries are necessary for education, information and leisure.

— Library users should expect more than just basic services.

— The league should support the public library as an essential service and lobby to protect it.

— The expanded services needed in the library system should be adequately funded.

So much of what in 1990 was almost a league wish list has been realized in the years since the passage of Measure B. To quote some statistics included in a letter sent out this summer by the Friends of the Library:

“Library hours increased from 84 to 206; many new programs for children and teens; the budget for books and media purchases escalated from $33,000 to $321,000; branch libraries established at Bear River High School and Penn Valley Shopping Center; and staff increased from 17 to 58.”

In closing, I urge you all to vote with the league, with a “yes” on Measure C. We love our libraries!

Sally Pansegrouw is the LWVWNC’s Legislation/Action chairwoman.

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