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LAist Guide to the Primary: Proposition 91

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While the presidential election is the sexy supermodel on the Feb. 5 California Primary ballot, there are three important propositions asking you to say Yes or No when you walk in to that polling place or mail in your vote.

Winston Churchill once said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others." Therefore, in the spirit of voting, let us take some time to open your minds to the wonderful world of Proposition 91, known in some circles as Transportation Funds. Constitutional Amendment and Statute. Now if that don't sound like a soothing piece of jazz, then I don't want to know what does.

After the jump, learn what is says, what it will do, how it will change your life and why the people who wrote the law want you to not vote for it.

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Proposition 91: Transportation Funds. Constitutional Amendment and Statute.

What it says:

  • Prop. 91 prohibits certain gas taxes from cars and uses taxes that are set aside for the state Transportation Investment Fund from being kept in the General Fund, which is basically California's piggy bank.
  • Prop. 91 requires repayment by June 2017 of such car gas taxes retained in General Fund from June 2003 to June 2008.
  • In effect, 91 Changes how and when General Fund borrowing of certain transportation funds is allowed.
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Current Law:

  • The state already collects various taxes and fees on gasoline, driver licenses, truck weights and vehicle registrations. These taxes and fees are earmarked to pay for state and local transportation systems, such as roads, highways, streets and public transit. In some cases, the State Constitution allows these earmarked funds to be loaned for up to three years to the state’s General Fund and spent for other purposes besides transportation. In 2006, voters passed Proposition 1A that limits borrowing some of these transportation funds.

How would it change your life:

  • As with 1A, you might see more construction projects on freeways and roads.
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Financial impact on you, the tax payer:

  • Prop. 91 would make state funding for highways, streets and roads more stable and predictable each year. However, it may also reduce the stability of certain local funds for public transit.

Who supports it:

  • Basically no one. The people who wrote the original measure are now asking you to vote against it. Mark Watts, executive director of Transportation California and Jim Earp, executive director for the California Alliance for Jobs both pushed for this bill in 2006, just as 77% of voters adopted Prop. 1A, effectively nullifying the benefits of 91. "By passing Proposition 1A, voters solved the problem of state raids of our gas tax funds," they said. "Proposition 91 is no longer needed."
  • There are no organized proponents of 91.

How much they've spent trying to tell you how to vote?

  • The "Vote NO on 91" people have spent $64,821.81.

Flickr image of "VOTE" via d.rex; Flickr image of freeway construction by darryleasy