Prop 13 and the California Debt Machine

Letter to the Editor

The March 3, 2020 ballot in California is going to have Proposition 13, titled “Authorizes Bonds for Facility Repair, Construction, and Modernization at Public Preschools, K-12 Schools, Community Colleges, and Universities. Legislative Statute.” This is not to be confused with any other Prop 13 measure in previous years. This measure authorizes the state to borrow up to 15 billion dollars through the issuance of bonds, and is estimated to increase state costs at about 740 million dollars per year (including interest) over the next 35 years.

The stated purpose for this borrowing is for the construction and modernizing of public education facilities, which sounds commendable. However, in passing this proposition, it would increase state debt significantly. This debt would need to be paid off, and to do so, the state will need to come up with revenue. This proposition does not propose a means of increasing revenue, and so it can be assumed that the state will devise new taxes to burden taxpayers in order to pay for what the state can not now afford. As with previous bond measures, nothing seems to be enough. Instead of learning how to manage taxes that are already coming in, or paying off debt from other bonds, the state keeps voting to put itself into more debt with even more bonds. Right now, California has the highest debt of any state in our country, and is in desperate need of responsible fiscal management.

It can be tempting to vote “yes” on anything related to our schools, but doing so should come with the knowledge that by increasing our debt, we will need to increase our taxes to pay for it. If you vote “yes” on Proposition 13, just know that you are voting for an increase in 15 billion dollars of debt to be paid with interest at an expense of 740 million dollars annually for 35 years. That comes to a total debt to be paid of 25.9 billion dollars, that will need to come out of taxpayer pockets. Voter beware.

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