Given its limited budget means, California cannot meet its own infrastructure investment needs by itself. However, the state can and should remove obstacles that local governments face when investing in their communities. One of the most notable obstacles is the two-thirds voter threshold currently needed for communities to pass infrastructure bonds.
In November 2012, a VICA-supported county sales tax for transportation was narrowly defeated. If Measure J had been approved, a one-half cent sales tax that was already being paid on the sales of goods and services in Los Angeles County would have continued for another 30 years.
The failure of Measure J was, in large part, due to the fact that a two-thirds majority is an almost insurmountable target even when the goal is infrastructure investment. The razor-thin loss of Measure J prompted many Californians to start discussing lowering the voting threshold for certain bond measures.
Assembly Constitutional Amendment 8 would address this issue by allowing local government (counties, cities and special districts) to pass infrastructure bond measures with a 55 percent majority.
The proposed 55 percent is equivalent to the voting threshold that currently applies to school bonds. Prior to 2001, school districts needed two-thirds approval to pass local general obligation bond measures. More than 40 percent of local school bond ballot questions failed.
In November 2000, California voters passed Proposition 39, which reduced the supermajority required to pass a bond issue ballot question from 67 percent to 55 percent. Since Proposition 39’s passing, 80 percent of local school bond ballots that relied on the 55 percent approval have succeeded.
A more reasonable vote threshold would allow us to create jobs and make long-term investments in our infrastructure without across-the-board tax increases. If voters can choose to build a school with a 55 percent vote, why not local roads, bridges, sewer systems, or fire stations?
Most of California’s infrastructure was designed and built over 40 years ago and it is estimated that the state needs at least an additional $500 billion for maintenance, repair, and upkeep of our crumbling sewer and storm drain systems, streets and sidewalks, overcrowded and outdated police stations, jails, fire stations, and libraries.
Furthermore, infrastructure is an investment in our future with identifiable rewards. Every $1 billion invested in infrastructure creates more than 18,000 jobs in California, while each dollar invested creates a $7 return to our economy.
Overall, these investments generate more tax revenue for schools, public safety and other vital services without raising taxes across the board. VICA urges you to contact your legislator and ask them to support ACA 8 to improve critical infrastructure and bring jobs back to the state.
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