Promises, Promises

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Voters, beware the promises you will hear attached to the coming state ballot measures. Given the track record of some recently passed ballot measures, voters should turn a skeptical eye on many of the assurances assigned by initiative promoters.

There were some big whoppers of course, none more so than the high-speed rail that is now projected to be slower and much more expensive than when the kick-off bond was promoted to voters with Proposition 1A in 2008. The cost estimates have bounced as high as nearly $100 billion, well above the $40 billion originally cast as the price for a 200-mph train that would run from San Francisco to Anaheim and eventually San Diego.

While the high-speed rail authority has officially lowered the estimated cost to $68 billion, recent revelations of cost overruns will spiral the cost up once again. No surprise. Oh, and the speed projection has been lowered, the route has been shortened (sorry Anaheim and San Diego) and the number of projected riders needed to sustain the system without taxpayer assistance has been derided (I guess you can say, literally.)

How about Prop 47? The first promise made in the state ballot booklet argument in favor of Proposition 47 is that it would “improve public safety.” That promise is suspect at best with the release of the study that arrests under Prop 47 are down 28.5%.

Many of the former felonies dealt with drug use. According to one report on the decreased arrests, Ventura Police Chief and president of the California Police Chiefs Association, Ken Corney, said: “If people aren’t showing up in court, if they’re not going to go to drug court, we’re going to see what we’re seeing, which is increased crime rates in our communities.”

The state Department of Justice reports that property crime has increased 12% and shoplifting has increased 11% since last year, two crimes affected by Proposition 47.

Pro arguments in the Official Voter Guide also stated that the state spends $9 billion on the prison system but that Prop 47 could reduce state costs hundreds of millions of dollars. Not yet. The most recent state budget shows the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation now is spending over $10 billion.

Then there was Proposition 30 created to fund the schools on a temporary basis. The whole campaign was built around that word “temporary.” In fact, the first word in the title of the ballot measure presented to voters was “temporary”: TEMPORARY TAXES TO FUND EDUCATION. GUARANTEED LOCAL PUBLIC SAFETY FUNDING.

Now voters are being pressured to pass Proposition 55 to extend the temporary tax another 12 years. And then…

The old adage “buyer beware” could easily apply to many ballot measures.

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