Check out your voter’s guide for the June 5 statewide primary that came in the mail this week and then grab your wallet.
Politicians, at the county, regional and statewide level, all want more of your money.
Heading the list is the feel-good $4.1 billion parks and water bond on the state ballot. Proponents argue that it’s been many years since the state passed a bond for parks and the laundry list of projects is worthy.
Opponents don’t debate that position, they point out the state’s precarious financial position and argue that it’s no time to take on more long-term debt that has the first call on the general fund.
The state’s balanced budget includes about a $12 billion rainy day reserve. Even a moderate recession would lower state revenues by about $60 billion over three years and quickly wipe out the reserve fund, forcing budget cuts.
There’s another consideration: the state’s under-funded pension liabilities. Those slowly ticking time bombs already are taking a greater share of municipal and state revenues and those expenses will continue to grow.
For the nine Bay Area counties, there’s Regional Measure 3 that would raise bridge fares (on other than the Golden Gate Bridge) by $3 over six years and index further increases to inflation. This program hits Alameda and Contra Costa county residents hard (they pay 49 percent of the bridge fares) and gives San Francisco and, particularly, Santa Clara counties what amounts to a free pass.
The fare increase is backed by business groups—the Bay Area Council and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group as well as politicians, labor and construction interests.
One of the benefits for East Bay commuters is the 300 new BART cars, but it would also build a new ferry terminal in San Francisco and expand the ferry system ($335 million), the clipper system as well as putting money into bike trails (these are connected to bridges?).
Last month, the East Bay Times ran an opinion piece by Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, who served in the state Assembly and Senate during the new Bay Bridge fiasco. It tripled in cost and the congressman has not forgotten it.
He wrote that he opposed the “highly flawed initiative born out of dysfunctional policy-making. Voters should reject it.”
There are many policy issues I disagree with DeSaulnier on, but he’s right on the money with this one. Politicians and business organizations have argued that, despite its flaws, it’s better to do something than nothing.
DeSaulnier sees it differently and so do I. East Bay commuters will pay about $700 more each year after the increases take effect.
The planned list of capital projects amounts to a transfer of wealth from East Bay commuters to the Silicon Valley, as DeSaulnier put it.
There are some planned benefits for the East Bay:
• Improvements to goods movement (think I-580 from 2-6 p.m.) for $160 million. This is a competitive grant program.
• Tri-Valley transit improvements ($100 million); Interstate 680/Highway 84 interchange rebuild in Sunol ($85 million); Interstates 880/680 connector in Fremont ($15 million)
• Funds for expanding the toll lanes on I-680 and I-580.
The very questionable expenditures include many in the North Bay: including Highway 29, HOV lanes on Highway 101 in Marin County and $40 million to extend the Sonoma-Marin light rail north of Santa Rosa. You can correctly ask what is the nexus to bridges?
It’s as bad in San Francisco and the South Bay. Topping the list is the Caltrain extension in downtown San Francisco ($325 and nothing to do with bridges) and the San Francisco muni fleet expansion ($140 million).
In the South Bay, it includes $375 million for BART to San Jose (no bridges involved here) as well as $230 million for the downtown San Jose Diridon transit station and expanding the light rail line to the new Eastridge BART station. Again, bridge connection?
There are worthwhile expenditures that are bridge related such as Highway 92 and Highway 101 interchange and projects Dumbarton corridor.
So, take DeSaulnier’s advice and just vote no.
As I have previously written, you could consider the same vote for Alameda County’s half-cent sales tax increase for low-income childcare and preschool. It’s the case of government thinking it can solve societal problems by throwing money at it. That’s Measure A on the June ballot. It would raise about $140 million annually.