CRA 2020 Endorsements -OPPOSE: Proposition 13


Proposition 13 would authorize $15 billion in state general obligation bonds for the construction and modernization of public education facilities.  It would cost taxpayers approximately $740 million per year for the next 35 years.

(Proposition 13 on the March 3, 2020 ballot is unrelated to the famous Jarvis-Gann “Prop. 13” initiative from June of 1978 that amended the California Constitution to limit property tax increases.)

This gigantic bond measure should be OPPOSED because:

  • California’s current debt level is unsustainable and unaffordable, crowding out government vital services.  This is especially true when the “off the books” costs of unfunded public employee retirement pensions and healthcare benefits are included as part of the state’s crushing debt load.  Prop. 13 makes it worse.
  • Borrowing money to build and repair schools doubles the cost, wasting tens of billions of dollars on interest and other costs.
  • Future generations will also need new schools and modernization, but those things will be more difficult to afford if they are paying off the fiscally irresponsible borrowing that this measure would authorize.
  • California has over one thousand school districts but most of them will not receive any funding at all from Proposition 13.  The borrowed funds will not be distributed fairly or evenly to each district, nor even distributed to those with the greatest needs.  Instead, the borrowed funds will generally be awarded only to those districts that have the ability to quickly raise local taxes to produce matching funds.  Recent experience shows that the poorest districts are disadvantaged by this unfair process.  Furthermore, fiscally-responsible districts that reject local tax increases (which tend to be Republican districts) are not likely to receive any funds at all from this measure.
  • 40% of this bond is dedicated to higher education facilities, which should be funded by college tuition rather that the state’s General Fund.  It is fundamentally unfair to ask people who cannot afford to attend college to pay even higher taxes to subsidize those who can.  Current subsidies for higher education are already out-of-control, particularly for foreign students.
  • Proposition 13 would change state law to increase the caps for local borrowing, so that school districts could borrow as much as 4% of local assessed value, compared to the current limits of 1.25% to 2.5%.  Too many school districts have already become insolvent by excessive borrowing under the current caps – yet this measure would make that problem worse by allowing crippling debt.
  • Proposition 13 represents a gigantic lost opportunity to reform our education system, where irresponsible spending, bloated bureaucracy, corruption, and cronyism have become routine.  Thousands and thousands of education bureaucrats earn more than the Governor of California, causing our schools to claim they do not have funding for routine maintenance.  Before approving borrowing and tax increases, we need to demand reform and accountability.