for School Bonds Declining
The impact of multimillionaires’ Prop 39...
[by Jon Coupal] 1/10/06
more local school bonds are passing, voter support for these
measures is in decline.
contradiction can be understood by looking at the impact of
Proposition 39 passed by voters in 2000. That year, a small
group of multimillionaires and billionaires, most from the
Silicon Valley, spent more than $60 million on a campaign to
lower the vote threshold for the passage of local school bonds
that only property owners are obligated to repay.
Coupal is an attorney and president of the Howard
Jarvis Taxpayers Association -- California's largest
taxpayer organization with offices in Los Angeles
and Sacramento. [go to website] [go
to Coupal index]
vote for local bonds was established in the California Constitution
of 1879 in recognition of the fact that not everyone who voted
was obligated to pay the tax. The two-thirds vote was intended
to guarantee a strong community consensus before taking on
long-term debt which placed a lien on all property within the
district. The two-thirds vote was also justified by the fact
that today's voters were not only taxing themselves, but future
39 changed the entire dynamic. First, at the ballot box, those
who have no tax liability can now more easily overwhelm the
property owners who do. Second, the same level of care and
attention previously put into bond proposals to maximize support
is no longer necessary since passage has become almost automatic.
Third, now that school district officials have found out how
easy it is to pass bonds, we are seeing many cases where they
are coming back with a second, or even a third bond in just
a few short years.
In the five
years since the passage of Proposition 39, there has been a
total of 365 Prop. 39 bond measures with 320 of those measures
passing (88% pass rate). There have also been 75 traditional
two-thirds vote bond measures (17% of all local bond measures)
with 39 of those measures passing (52% pass rate). (Some school
districts opt for the traditional two-thirds vote bonds because
there are no limits to the amount of indebtedness sought to
be approved). The combined total has been 440 total measures
with 359 passing (82% pass rate).
amount of bonds approved since the passage of Proposition 39
has been $39.38 billion with $37.34 billion of that amount
coming from Prop. 39 bond measures.
Of the 440
combined total number of bond measures, 171 (or 39%) passed
with less than a two-thirds vote. The total bond amount represented
by these 171 Prop. 39 affected measures is $23.93 billion.
of the November 2005 ballot reveals a change in the level of
support for school bonds, although the pass rate is higher
than ever. There were 36 local school bonds on the November
ballot with 31 of those measures passing (86% overall pass
rate). Of the 36 measures, 31 of the measures (86%) were Prop.
39 bond measures. Of the 31 Prop. 39 bond measures, 28 ended
up passing (90% pass rate).
leaders and the tax-and-spenders have been citing these high
passage rates of local bonds on the November 2005 ballot as
justification for greater public support for public education,
the real reason why the passage rates were so high is because
of the significantly lowered passing standard under Prop. 39.
Only 36% of the local education bond measures on the November
2005 ballot received a two-thirds vote. In the five-year period
just prior to the passage of Prop. 39 in 2000, more than 60%
of the local bond measure received a two-thirds vote. The median
support percentage (median "yes" percentages) were
also significantly higher during the aforementioned 5-year
period compared to the November 2005 elections.
reveal an electorate that is starting to get irritated with
all these local bonds, especially from districts that have
proposed multiple measures. Of the 5 districts that were pursuing
their second or third Proposition 39 bond measure this last
November, none cleared the two-thirds vote hurdle, although
all ended up passing with less than a two-thirds vote.
members of the "Billionaires Boys Club" that backed
Proposition 39 have pledged to defend its more liberal bond
passing standard with their last discretionary dollar, pressure
for relief is building. It may be that property owners will
be forced to defend themselves through an initiative that,
at a minimum, limits the frequency that school bonds can be
placed on the ballot in any one district. CRO
2006 Howard Jarvis Taxpayers association