News Release: Growing Coalition of Labor, Business, Water, Environmental and Agriculture Leaders Oppose Deceptive “Cortopassi” Initiative

November 2, 2015
Contact: Kathy Fairbanks

Sacramento, CA — Responding to a post by The Sacramento Bee today that the “Cortopassi” Initiative is poised to qualify for the November 2016 ballot, a growing coalition of labor, business, water agencies, environmentalists, family farmers and others reaffirmed its opposition to this deceptive, destructive measure that threatens to significantly disrupt infrastructure development, jobs and the economy in California. (8/9/16 update: This initiative will appear on the ballot as Proposition 53.)

“This ballot measure is both deceptive and dangerous,” said Allan Zaremberg, President of the California Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of the committee formed to defeat the measure. “It’s deceptive because revenue bonds are not repaid by taxpayers, they’re repaid by users of a project. Since neither the general fund nor state taxpayers are on the hook for repayment, it’s misleading and unnecessary to call for a statewide vote. The measure is dangerous because it would stall or stop vitally needed infrastructure projects all over the state including water reliability projects, road safety and bridge repairs, universities and college buildings and other infrastructure. And the measure’s provisions would be locked into our state constitution with no exceptions to respond to natural disasters or emergencies.”

“Already a broad and growing coalition is coming together to defeat this measure,” said Robbie Hunter, President of the California State Building and Construction Trades Council and co-chair of the committee. “Our state is suffering from a massive backlog of essential needs across the state, including outdated water systems that are vulnerable to earthquakes, crumbling roads and bridges and overcrowded hospitals and universities. This measure worsens an already grave situation, and threatens our economy and job-creation. We will mount an aggressive campaign to defeat this misleading initiative.”

Among key problems with the initiative identified by the coalition:

  • Deceptive. Dean Cortopassi has supplied the entirety of $4 million to put this measure on the ballot. He opposes the plan to repair California’s statewide water distribution infrastructure through the Delta. Irrespective of one’s position on that single project, this measure locks into our constitution this requirement that would block much needed repairs of our roads, bridges, water supply and delivery systems, and universities all over the state.
  • Unnecessary. Private investors bear the financial risk for revenue bonds, not the state or its general fund. And revenue bonds are repaid by users of a project who directly benefit, not taxpayers. For instance, repairs to a bridge would be paid by tolls on the bridge, or customers in a specific water district would pay to build a water recycling plant, not taxpayers. It makes no sense to have a statewide election on projects not financed by taxpayers for which the state and local governments bear none of the financial risk.
  • Erodes local control. This measure takes away local control by requiring statewide voter approval even for local projects. Under this measure, cities and towns that want to come together with the state and form a JPA to issue revenue bonds to upgrade local water systems, roads, bridges and universities would have to put their project on a statewide ballot. That means voters in faraway regions would have the authority to deny funding for local projects outside of their community.
  • Disrupts vital infrastructure development. California and its local communities already suffer from a massive backlog of essential infrastructure needs including outdated water systems that cannot withstand earthquakes, crumbling roads and bridges, and over-crowded hospitals and universities. This measure would make our infrastructure problems worse by denying the use of privately-funded revenue bonds to finance these much needed projects.
  • Jeopardizes our ability to fix infrastructure after a natural disaster. The ballot measure’s provisions would be locked into our state constitution, and contains no exemptions for emergencies, or a major natural disaster like an earthquake. That means state and local governments must wait as long as two years in order to get voter approval to begin rebuilding damaged or destroyed roads, freeways, bridges, hospitals and water delivery systems after an emergency.
  • Added costs, bureaucracy and delays. This measure will drive up the costs of building vital projects by forcing state and local governments to use more expensive forms of financing. It would also create more red-tape and bureaucracy that make projects like water systems, roads, bridges and universities more expensive and difficult to complete.

Citizens to Protect California Infrastructure is a growing coalition of labor, business, water, family farmers, environmentalist and other organizations that have come together to defeat the deceptive “Cortopassi Initiative.”