Proposition 68: Money for Parks, Beaches and Water Projects

3 min
Salt Point state park in Sonoma County. (California Coastal Commission)

Proposition 68 is a $4.1 billion bond measure that will clean up dilapidated parks, improve water projects, upgrade flood protection  and protect scenic open spaces.

What You Need to Know About Proposition 68

  • About two-thirds of the money would be dedicated to parks and wildlife, and one-third would be allocated to water and flood control projects.
  • Payments on the bond will cost taxpayers about $200 million annually over 40 years.
  • The Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) estimates the infrastructure investments will likely save communities tens of millions of dollars annually.
  • Here's how the allocations break down:
    • Parks and Recreation: $1.283 billion for neighborhood parks in low-income communities, plus city and county park facilities
    • Natural Resources: $1.547 billion for conservation projects and climate change preparedness
    • Water: $1.27 billion for drinking water treatment, groundwater clean-up and flood protection

How did Proposition 68 Get on the Ballot?

Proposition 68 was written by state Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, and was placed on the ballot by a two-thirds vote of state lawmakers last year.

"I grew up in a neighborhood in San Diego that was all asphalt, that was concrete and cement," de León says. "No green parks. No open space. No trees for shade. This is an intentional way of democratizing our benefits so that every child regardless of their zip code has access to Mother Nature."

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Why Do People Support It?

Prop. 68 provides funding for disaster prevention, clean drinking water and safe parks for children and future generations.

Fellow "fairy lanterns" bloom at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. This year they are especially abundant following the recent wildfire. (Danielle Venton/KQED)

Voters have not approved a statewide ballot measure to fund parks, beaches, wildlife and forests in 12 years. Environmentalists say the measure is necessary to protect the state from droughts, floods, sea level rise and wildfires that are likely to increase in intensity under climate change.

“It’s never a mistake to invest in people and nature," said Louis Blumberg, of The Nature Conservancy. "We look back and we always say we are glad we did.”

Other proponents include the American Lung Association in California, California Chamber of Commerce and The Nature Conservancy.

Why Do People Oppose It?

There is no organized campaign against the measure. But some critics do not support more state debt.

“We can’t borrow more," said Sen. John Moorlach, R-Orange County. "We should pay as we go. We actually have extra money because the state has a budget surplus."

The state’s budget surplus is $9 billion, but Governor Jerry Brown argues that money should remain in a rainy day fund. Moorlach disagrees because a bond like Proposition 68 will end up costing a lot more than it’s initial price.

“When you borrow money you have to pay double for the infrastructure because of the interest costs," said Moorlach.

The interest on Prop. 68 will cost about 200 million dollars annually for 40 years. According to the Legislative Analyst's Office that's about about one-fifth of one percent of the state’s current General Fund budget.

 

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