Delta farmer files ‘No Blank Checks Initiative’

Written By: Dan Bacher, July 2, 2014

Dean Cortopassi, the Stockton area farmer known for the many television, radio and TV ads against the peripheral canal and tunnels that he sponsored during the Schwarzenegger administration, filed a request On Friday, June 17, with the Attorney General’s office for a title and summary for a proposed initiative constitutional amendment titled the “No Blank Checks Initiative.”

"Currently, state bonds only need to be approved by voters if the bonds are to repaid out of the state’s general revenues," reported Maven's Notebook. "Mr. Cortopassi’s initiative would greatly expand the requirement for voter approval, extending it to bonds that would be repaid by specific charges imposed on residents, such as taxes, fees, rates, tolls, or rents." (http://mavensnotebook.com/2014/06/29/new-proposed-constitutional-amendment-starts-down-the-path-towards-the-ballot-the-no-blank-checks-initiative/)

The purpose of this measure is to "bring the state's public debt crisis under control by giving the voters a say in all major bond-funded state projects that will be paid off through higher taxes, fees, rates, tolls, or rents charged to Californians, their children, and future generations."

The petition states: 
(a) The politicians in Sacramento have mortgaged our future with long-term bond debt obligations that will take taxpayers, our children, and future generations decades to pay off.

(b) Under current rules, state bonds only need to be approved by voters if they will be repaid out of the state's general revenues. But the state politicians can rack up billions in additional bond debt without ever getting the voters' approval if the bonds will be repaid with specific charges imposed directly on Californians like taxes, fees, rates, tolls, or rents. The politicians should not be allowed to write themselves blank checks. Voters must have a say in all major state bond debt spending decisions because voters are the ones who ultimately pay the bill.

(c) According to a 2014 report from California's independent, nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office, the State of California is carrying $340 billion in public debt. This represents $8,500 per person living in the state. (Legislative Analyst's Office, "Addressing California's Key Liabilities," Mar. 7, 2014.) The interest payments on our long-term debt obligations will cripple the state if we keep spending the way we do now-making it harder to fund schools, public safety, and other important state programs. 

The initiative adds Section 1. 7 to Article XVI of the California Constitution, to read:
Section 1. 7. 

Notwithstanding any other provision of law:(a) For each bond act request submitted to the voters pursuant to Section 1 or Section 1.6 of this article, or Section 8 of Article II, the following information shall be prominently provided in the state ballot pamphlet as part of the Legislative Analyst's impartial analysis of the measure:

(1) a description of the project that the bonds will fund; (2) the date which the bonds must be repaid; (3) the estimated total cost to pay offboth the principal and interest on the bonds; (4) the tax, fee, rate, toll, rent, or other charge that will be imposed, increased, or extended for repayment ofthe bonds, if applicable; (5) any other forms of repayment that will be applied to pay off the bonds; and (6) the audit and financial oversight procedures included in the bond act request to ensure the bond proceeds will be expended efficiently and for their stated purpose. If the bond act request does not contain any audit or financial oversight procedures, an explicit statement to that effect shall be included in the Legislative Analyst's impartial analysis of the measure." 

The measure has been filed with the Attorney General for preparation of the title and summary, a process expected to take approximately 60 days. The measure is then submitted to the Secretary of State, who sets calendar deadlines.
Proponents of the measure will then have 150 days to collect more than 800,000 signatures to qualify the constitutional amendment for the ballot.
You can read the initiative and follow its progress here: Initiative and Referendum Proposals Pending Review By Attorney General: http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/ballot-measures/initiative-referendum-status.htm 

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