October 07, 2007
Turnout and Prop 15

The Chron continues its series on Constitutional amendments on this year's ballot with a look at Prop 15, the initiative to fund cancer research with $3 billion in bonds.

No organized opposition has emerged to Proposition 15, but detractors say going into debt is an irresponsible way to fund a goal that might prove elusive. Backers counter that the state would share in proceeds from any major patents that could result, and such income would help pay back the bonds.

"The opposition is really voter apathy," said political strategist Bryan Epstein, a consultant for Texans to Cure Cancer, the leading political action committee pushing passage of the measure.

"Proposition 15 safely passes if the turnout is over 1 million," Epstein said last week. "It becomes more challenging if the turnout is less than a million."

High-profile bond initiatives in Houston aimed at public schools, the port authority and criminal justice could attract more voters to the polls, he said, but elections for constitutional amendments often draw lackluster statewide turnouts.

Makes me wonder if the pro-Prop 15 forces might want to invest in helping the HISD bond effort. Seems to me that the anti-HISD vote, especially the Hotze anti-tax crowd, is more likely to vote against something like this than your average voter. Just a thought.

I'll say this: The Prop 15 skeptics can make a pretty persuasive case, one that can be tailored to different voters:

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said Proposition 15 sounds like a good idea, but he has serious concerns about the funding mechanism.

"Traditionally, we don't borrow money except to build infrastructure. This is a fairly significant departure from that," he said.

Also, the state is setting aside $6 billion in surplus funds to pay for a promised property tax cut, said Scott McCown, executive director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, an Austin think tank that advocates for low-income Texans.

Yet, if it borrows $3 billion for cancer research rather than tapping into the state's general revenue, taxpayers will have to pay an estimated $1.6 billion more in interest.

McCown questioned the logic of that policy, saying, "We're borrowing money because we're keeping money in our wallets to fund tax cuts."

Perhaps the pro-15 folks should be thankful that their biggest foe is apathy.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 07, 2007 to Election 2007

it is like borrowing money to play the horses. If this passes imagine all the worthy causes that will be asking for similar deals.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on October 7, 2007 10:38 PM

I agree. The taxpayers are already paying for research as it is through federal funding. And the taxpayers will pay for the interest on this. Bond issues always sound good. Until you realize that the taxes pay the interest. And most taxpayers are being taxed to death at this point. And not to sound horribly jaded but where would most of this $3 billion go? Our legislature loves to play with the budget and part of it could go to renovate that apartment in the Capitol again. Or pay for another payraise for the legislators. Or for any number of other things our legislature could decide it needed the money for.

Same thing with the HISD bond proposal. Enough is enough is enough. Manage the money better and quit misappropriating it. HISD is nothing but waste and has been for some time. Stop the waste by stopping the cash flow.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on October 8, 2007 9:31 AM