Everybody should agree on this one: Yes on Proposition 69

By Robbie Hunter
President, State Building and Construction Trades Council

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If California ever had a ballot measure that everybody in the state should be able to support, it’s Proposition 69 on the June 5 primary ballot.

Nobody who drives a car or takes other forms of transportation—namely, anybody in this state who has to go to work or wants to enjoy California’s vast parks, mountains, deserts and beaches—can honestly deny that we need to act now to keep transportation from becoming hopelessly gridlocked.

Hundreds of bridges and hundreds of thousands of miles of freeway lanes are dilapidated, disintegrated and badly in need of repair. They have been for decades.

California motorists don’t have to be told about the problem. They know it all too well, from the $700 a year that each of them pays on average to fix cars that get torn up by potholes and crumbling roads.

Finally, we have a realistic mechanism to begin to make the fixes, and Proposition 69 is a major part of the solution.

Our state Legislature took the action that was needed last year when it passed Senate Bill 1, the law that will raise more than $50 billion in revenues over the next decade to improve our highways and rail systems, our bridges and all of our transportation infrastructure.

But the passage of SB 1 didn’t settle the issue once and for all. Proposition 69 is a companion initiative that will make SB 1 even more effective.

With Prop. 69, the voters can lock this funding stream into the state Constitution so future lawmakers cannot divert it.

The people’s opportunity arrives June 5, and we at the State Building and Construction Trades Council strongly urge voters to say yes to this measure and enact this constitutional “lockbox” provision under Proposition 69, which was embedded into the SB 1 legislation.

Under the provisions of Prop. 69, the revenues generated under SB 1 cannot be loaned and they can’t be used to pay down transportation bonds without voter approval. Proposition 69 also creates a little breathing room for other state programs by exempting these SB 1 funds from state constitutional spending limits.

Building Trades local union members should not let Proposition 69 get lost in the tsunami of other campaign materials that will be flooding mailboxes in coming weeks, when primary campaigns heat up in the contests for governor, U.S. Senator, and all the statewide and local offices.

There probably will be nothing on this ballot more crucial to the interests of unionized construction workers than Proposition 69.

The federal government has estimated that 13,000 jobs are directly or indirectly created for every $1 billion in highway and transit investment funding. That amounts to some 650,000 California jobs over the next decade. Nearly two-thirds of them, meanwhile, will be going to construction workers and the employees of the businesses that supply the construction materials.

When you get a chance to lock down that many opportunities for working families to earn decent pay, there can be no question on which way to go—you take it.

To work toward the passage of Proposition 69, the Building Trades have joined with the County Supervisors Association of California, the League of California Cities, the California Alliance for Jobs, the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Business Roundtable, the Southern California Contractors Association, the state NAACP, Move L.A., the League of Women Voters, the California Transit Association and many other labor, business and environmental organizations. 

It’s easy to see why these groups that have different goals and agendas have come together to push this measure toward victory: It ensures that the revenues raised when we fill up our gas tanks and register our motor vehicles will be used only for the intended purpose of highway and transit improvements.

Passage of Prop. 69 will mean that your potholes will be fixed. It means that local roads and highways will be improved. Proposition 69 means that more than 500 bridges throughout the state will be upgraded and repaired, as well as tunnels and overpasses. It means that driving will become safer and easier. Prop. 69 means that commute times will be shortened by the addition of new lanes and the unclogging of bottlenecks.

Light rail and commuter rail lines will be shored up. Pedestrian crosswalks and other passageways will be expanded and improved.

Proposition 69 does not raise taxes. It only assures that we are doing something to take care of the $137 billion in deferred maintenance for our roads and highways.

Unfortunately, some politicians in our midst are opposing Prop. 69 for reasons that have nothing to do with fixing our roads, highways and transit systems. A couple of them are candidates for political office who believe they can make names for themselves, and advance their careers, by tearing down SB 1 and anything related to it. Others are ideological zealots on the legislative back bench who believe that government has no role to play in making our lives safer or our roads better. We don’t know what world they are living in. We do know that most of us live in a reality of traffic jams and bumpy roads and costly automotive repairs.

We also know that these opponents of Proposition 69 are wrong.

California in the not-too-distant future will be a state of 50 million people. We have one of the most complex societies and varied economies in the world, and all of it is based on a transportation system that moves goods and people. It is a system that needs massive investment, to meet the demands of the present and to prepare for the challenges of future growth.

SB 1 represented a bipartisan answer to dealing with the transportation demands of a public that now logs more than 350 billion driving miles a year. Our legislators and our governor, Jerry Brown, did the right thing by passing SB 1 and signing it into law. Now it is time for the people to follow their lead and place their constitutional stamp of approval on a funding measure that makes sure that these revenues are channeled precisely where the lawmakers said they would go.

There is only one choice for California on this measure.

Vote Yes on Proposition 69.  

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