Prop 22 – Walling Off Transportation, Redevelopment, and Local Government Funds

(Image from savelocalservices.com)

 

(Image from votenoprop22.com)

Proposition 22 – Prohibits the state from borrowing or taking funds used for transportation, redevelopment, or local government projects and services. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Measure Details:

  • Walls off funds for transportation, redevelopment and local government projects and services, preventing the state from reallocating these funds (even during fiscal crises).

Arguments For:

  • Prop 22 would protect funding for local services (911 dispatch, emergency response, libraries, public transit, etc.)
  • It would keep tax dollars local, and expenditures are more effective when kept locally.
  • The state is irresponsibly raiding these funds and using them for its own purposes, which may not align with the interests of the parties from whom the money is taken.

Arguments Against:

  • It will reduce the funding available for education, fire districts, home support and health care services.
  • It will funnel money to redevelopment agencies, for-profit developers that are not subject to taxpayer oversight.

My Take:

Honestly, this is the most difficult Prop I’ve looked at yet. As mentioned before in my look at Prop 21, the idea of walling off huge portions of the state budget is troublesome to me, despite the fact that I eventually came down in favor of Prop 21 (which does exactly that). This seems to be that, but the money that is walled off is going to projects that I am much less comfortable with than state parks.

The big issue with this proposition, as I see it, is the extent to which the money would go to support redevelopment agencies. Redevelopment agencies are government agencies that “pair public money with private developers to improve blighted areas.” Which, on its face, sounds pretty good. The problem is that, according to the article linked above, this follow-up article, and audit reports from the US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, cities aren’t really getting that much bang for their buck. According to the LA Times (in the first article linked in this paragraph), despite some isolated examples of success:

The Times found many agencies beset by problems that have cost taxpayers millions. Sometimes it’s malfeasance; other times it’s officials at small agencies lacking the skills to manage large sums or negotiate complex deals.

From the second article in that series:

[D]uring the eight-year period, more than 20 agencies produced less than one unit of new or rehabilitated housing for every $1 million spent, according to the Times analysis of state records. A ballpark estimate for building a unit and keeping it affordable for 55 years ranges from $350,000 to $500,000, experts said.

I agree with the argument that the state should not be able to raid local budgets at a whim, but I’m troubled by the inclusion of redevelopment agencies in this proposition. Especially when the money that will be allocated to these agencies, which don’t seem to have a great track record, could possibly be money diverted from schools. That’s not to say that the California school system is being 100% effective with its funding, either. But taking (possibly misspent) money from California schools and allocating it to redevelopment agencies (to possibly misspend) isn’t something that I can get behind. Especially when that money could eventually flow to private, possibly for-profit companies.

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