October 23, 2007
Proposition 4

The Chron takes a look at State Proposition 4, to my mind one the genuinely contentious issues on the ballot.

Texans who want nicer state parks or who support funding to preserve historic courthouses will have to read between the lines to find their favorite causes on the Nov. 6 election ballot.

Up to $1 billion in general obligation-bonding authority will allow construction of three state prisons, state park improvements, historic preservation and new Texas Youth Commission facilities if voters approve Proposition 4 in the constitutional amendment election.

But voters will have to do their homework to understand the ballot.

The Proposition 4 language simply asks approval for up to $1 billion in bonds "for maintenance, improvement, repair and construction projects and for the purchase of needed equipment." No mention of state parks, county courthouse preservation and the like.

Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said legislators couldn't specifically break out bonding propositions for parks, historical preservation and prisons because to do so would clutter up the ballot, which already contains 16 amendment proposals.

"What we're asking the voters of Texas to do is to look at the big picture," Ogden said Monday, the first day of early voting for the election. "Putting more propositions on the ballot would be counterproductive."

"It's hard enough now to get the voters' attention on 16 propositions," he said.

But critics contend the number of proposals shouldn't matter.

"What matters is the ability for the voter to really know what they're going to be spending their money on," said Ana Yanez-Correa, executive director for the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.

The group opposes Proposition 4 because it wants time for Texans to assess the effectiveness of alternatives to incarceration, which the Legislature adopted earlier this year. Spending $273.4 million for three more prisons doesn't make sense, Yanez-Correa said, considering the prison system does not have enough prison guards to staff current prisons adequately.

"They just merged all these needs together into one (proposition), and people are not going to know exactly what their money is going to go towards," she said.

While I support spending more money on our state parks, which really need it, I cannot support this amendment. Like Grits, I will vote against it. (Vince takes no position.) I'm still mulling over the Harris County bond referendum, but am leaning against it as well. I'll vote for the HISD bonds and the port bonds, but unless someone can convince me that the other spending outweighs the new jail construction spending, I can't see myself voting for the County bonds.

For more information on the constitutional amendments, see Rep. Scott Hochberg's page.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 23, 2007 to Election 2007

bonds commit future revenue reducing our ability to respond to future crises

Posted by: Charles Hixon on October 23, 2007 11:51 PM