Prop 91: Almost Abandoned, But Not Quite...

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, January 28, 2008

Jim Earp is in a bit of a tough position. "Prop. 91 is kind of one of those Ripley’s believe it or not stories in politics.”

He’s Executive Director of the California Alliance for Jobs – one of the groups that spent two and a half million dollars gathering signatures to get prop. 91 on the ballot. The constitutional amendment would prevent the state from taking gas tax money earmarked for transportation – and using it elsewhere.

But Earp has now abandoned it: “It’s kind of like having a child and putting it up for adoption or giving it away or something.” Why is he asking voters to reject it? “We’re basically telling them they don’t need to vote for this because the problem was solved with the passage of prop. 1A in 2006.”

The “problem” he’s talking about is the fact that the Governor and the legislature used a loophole in the law to take gas tax money for things other than transportation.

And it turned out that just the threat of prop. 91 motivated lawmakers to craft a deal with Earp’s coalition. That deal was prop. 1A……approved overwhelmingly by voters. And Earp agreed to back off on 91…though it still qualified for the ballot. He says 1A is working – and this year is proof: “if prop. 1A is strong enough that in this situation, that we have a 14 billion dollar budget shortfall, that it’s not triggering that raid on the funds, then I think prop. 1A is pretty darn good.”

But prop 91 hasn’t been entirely abandoned. The group Southern California Transit Advocates has picked the measure up and formed a small, grassroots campaign to support it.

*Kimberleigh Richards is with the organization – and says lawmakers still haven’t gotten the message that voters want transportation money protected: “The legislature and the Governor’s office have not gotten enough collective bricks to their head yet. Prop 91 is another wakeup call.” Richards says Prop 1 A only tightened the loophole. It still allows the state to use the gas tax money for other things twice every decade. But she says prop. 91 is ironclad – and prevents the state from taking the money at all. “I believe that most people who voted for 1A are going to see that language of 91, realize they voted yes last time, and vote yes again.”

Other endorsements for prop. 91 have come from Republican Senator Tom McClintock and the conservative group the California Republican Assembly.