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Voting to Borrow for the Children

Tuesday November 4th, 2014   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 5:22am PST   •  

ii-421-Education201st On Election Day 2014, many voters in California will likely see at least one of 118 local bond measures on their ballots, with local government entities seeking permission to borrow a collective total $12.6 billion dollars as they also increase local property taxes to pay back the money being borrowed over the term of the loans, which is how school bonds work.

Of these 118 measures, 112 are purportedly for the benefit of the state’s public schools, where the authors of the ballot measures claim the money being borrowed will go to things like repairing facilities or otherwise improving the government-run schools. For the children.

But there is no law in California that requires government school officials to spend the money they borrow for those stated purposes. Ed Ring explains where money claimed to be “for the children” will really be going:

“As the result of California Courts refusing to uphold the language of the High Speed Rail bonds, the opponents of any bond proposal, at either the state or local level, need only point to High-Speed Rail to remind voters that promises in a voter approved bond proposal are meaningless and unenforceable.”

– Jon Coupal, October 26, 2014, HJTA California Commentary

If that isn’t plain enough – here’s a restatement: California’s politicians can ask voters to approve bonds, announcing the funds will be used for a specific purpose, then they can turn around and do anything they want with the money. And while there’s been a lot of coverage and debate over big statewide bond votes, the real money is in the countless local bond issues that collectively now encumber California’s taxpayers with well over $250 billion in debt.

Over the past few weeks we’ve tried to point out that local tax increases – 166 of them on the November 4th ballot at last count, tend to be calibrated to raise an amount of new tax revenue that, in too many cases, are suspiciously equal to the amount that pension contributions are going to be raised over the next few years. For three detailed examples of how local tax increases will roughly equal the impending increases to required pension contributions, read about Stanton, Palo Alto, and Watsonville’s local tax proposals.

It’s a long way to go from borrowing money to fix up public schools that are falling apart to instead borrowing money to ensure that public employees never get anything less than the full amount of their very generous public pensions that they claim they deserve after their careers of making sure the public schools don’t fall apart. But at least after the debt has all been paid, California voters can rest assured that the public schools will be in even greater need of repair because the money to fix them went somewhere else.

So we guess that these 118 local bond measures for fixing up poorly maintained public schools won’t be the last that Californians will be seeing on their ballots.

If only the money that local governments are borrowing were really going to things that would actually address the education needs of California’s children, rather than crushing their future with enormous debt bills.

Featured Image:
California Assemblymember Kristin Olsen

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November 2014