Propositions and more

Four important ballot measures and the CN&R’s endorsements

LEAK DETECTOR <br>John Ball, principal of Hooker Oak Elementary School, stands beneath a leak-stained ceiling in the school’s hallway. “It needs a re-roofing,” Ball said. Prop. 55 would allocate $12.3 billion for such upgrades.

John Ball, principal of Hooker Oak Elementary School, stands beneath a leak-stained ceiling in the school’s hallway. “It needs a re-roofing,” Ball said. Prop. 55 would allocate $12.3 billion for such upgrades.

Photo By Tom Angel

In addition to the party primaries, the March 2 election includes four hugely important statewide propositions: a school bond measure, a measure that would lower the threshold to pass the state budget and a pair of measures that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger believes must be passed to heal this year’s huge budget gap.

Here’s our rundown of the propositions and our recommendations regarding them, followed by our endorsements for state, federal and local offices.

Proposition 55: Funds $12.3 billion in school facilities upgrades and new construction.

It’s well documented that California’s K-12 schools, community colleges, state universities and UC campuses are woefully in need of repair or expansion. Virtually the only way to pay for this is with state or local general-obligation bonds or a combination of the two.

This measure would pay for furniture and equipment for Chico State University’s new (and previous bond-funded) Student Services Center and could help fund a replacement to Taylor Hall. It would also put money toward renovating Butte College’s library as well as projects in the Chico Unified School District and the Butte County Office of Education.

In a global economy, education and research are the key to keeping America’s economy prosperous. Prop. 55 deserves a “yes” vote.

Proposition 56: The Legislature would be able to pass a budget with a 55-percent vote.

Consensus? Compromise? Both are foreign words in the halls of the state Legislature, which year after year busts the constitutional deadline for passing a budget because politicians simply can’t agree. Prop. 56 would remove the requirement of a 67-percent “yes” vote to pass a budget, dropping the threshold down to 55 percent.

And if the budget is late—hoo boy! The solons won’t get paid.

Proponents, such as the League of Women Voters, say that budget-passing shouldn’t be any different from other legislative actions that require only a simple majority vote.

Opponents, backed largely by oil, tobacco and alcohol companies, call Prop. 56 a “blank check” and say it translates to more taxes, because it will make it easier for politicians to pass tax hikes with only a 55-percent vote.

Like most Californians, we’re tired of budget battles every year. We recommend a “yes” vote.

Proposition 57: A $15 billion bond to bail out the state budget.

The brainchild of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his advisers, Prop. 57 is designed to plug the huge hole in the proposed 2004-05 budget. This “one-time” bailout would wipe the slate clean, as if all those icky budget mistakes never happened.

The governor says he’s left with no choice after inheriting debt from the prior governor and Legislature. Prop. 57 would replace a $10.7 billion bond the Legislature approved last year and would instead sell bonds that would be repaid, via a quarter-cent out of sales taxes plus reserves created by Prop. 58, over a shorter term: nine to 14 years.

But he worsened the problem $4.2 billion annually by repealing the hike in the vehicle license fee. Now he wants to borrow to make up the difference. This is just more pass-the-buck budgeting that asks our kids to pay for what we don’t have the courage or will to pay for now. Selling bonds to pay off debt, rather than purchase infrastructure such as schools or highways, is bad business.

In the early ‘90s, when the state faced an even worse budget crisis, it solved it by passing a combination of budget cuts and judicious tax hikes. The Legislature needs to do that again. Vote “no” on 57.

Proposition 58: Amends the state Constitution to require a balanced budget.

Local governments must balance their budgets without deficit-spending. Why shouldn’t the state? That’s the logic behind this measure, a companion to Prop. 57 (both must pass for either to pass). Proponents say that, while Prop. 57 would fix this year’s problem, this subsequent measure would make sure it doesn’t happen again. It would require that the Legislature and governor pass a balanced budget, revising it later in the year if it seems to be getting off-kilter again.

The measure would also set up a reserve account to be tapped during tight budget times. Half of the hypothetical account would go to pay off the $15 billion bond. Furthermore, only short-term borrowing would be allowed to cover deficits.

Opponents of 57 also oppose 58. We recommend a “no” vote on the pair.

U.S. Senate (Republicans)
Of the four major candidates, only Bill Jones has the experience or political savvy to be a U.S. senator. Howard Kaloogian is too far to the right to beat the Democratic incumbent, Barbara Boxer, and the more moderate Toni Casey, a former mayor of Los Altos Hills, and Rosario Marin, a former U.S. treasurer, are relatively inexperienced.

Jones is a moderate, pragmatic Republican whose two decades as a state legislator and California secretary of state have prepared him well for higher office. We recommend Bill Jones.

U.S. Congress, 2nd District (Democrats)
Of the three Democrats lining up to challenge Rep. Wally Herger, only Dr. A. J. Sekon, of Yuba City, has the resources to mount a credible campaign. He’s potentially a good candidate, too: Besides being a medical doctor, he’s a decorated and disabled vet who serves in the Army Reserve. But he’s also a bearded, turbaned Sikh, which sad to say may limit his chances among the many people in the district who can’t tell a Sikh from a sycamore.

The sight of Wally Herger debating Dr. Sekon is too good to miss, however, so we endorse A. J. Sekon.

Butte County supervisor, Dist. 1 (Oroville area)
There is little difference on the issues between incumbent Bob Beeler and his challenger, Bill Connelly, so Oroville voters should stick with experience. In fact, about the only point on which they disagree is whether Beeler should have voted to raise building permit fees. Connelly, a contractor, says no, but Beeler rightly points out that the fees hadn’t been raised for 12 years and that taxpayers were subsidizing the builders’ application process.

We endorse Bob Beeler.

Butte County supervisor, Dist. 4 (Durham-Gridley-Richvale)
Here, as in Dist. 1, the two candidates, Curt Josiassen and John Busch, share similar political viewpoints. In fact, the challenger, Busch, is a friend of Josiassen’s who decided to run to replace the two-term incumbent when the latter was thinking of not running. When Josiassen decided to seek a third term, Busch stayed in the race.

Again, voters should opt for the more experienced candidate. We endorse Curt Josiassen.

Butte County supervisor, Dist. 5 (Paradise-Magalia)
This is the one supervisorial race in which voters have a distinct choice.

The first-term incumbent, Kim Yamaguchi, a Paradise real estate agent, has been lying low for the past two years after his embarrassing (and costly) failed effort in 2001 to redistrict the county so as to cut into the support base of Chico’s two supervisors. He’s a pro-business conservative who has focused on bringing industry to the area.

Challenging him is Stirling City Hotel owner Charlotte Hilgeman, who’s running a low-key, no-budget campaign based primarily on her belief that Butte County can best cure its economic woes by developing and promoting tourism. She disagrees with Yamaguchi on a number of issues but refuses to fling dirt.

Charlotte Hilgeman would be a refreshing addition to the Board of Supervisors.