Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Proposition 12: "If you think the old Proposition 15 was a disaster, just try voting for this one."

Vote carefully on amendments ... results may come back to haunt you


Elaine Kolodziej
Wilson County News
Copyright 2007

As a rule, I tend to vote against amendments to the Texas Constitution; unfortunately, most voters do the opposite.

Something seems inherently wrong when we must continually vote on amendments so convoluted that even the most astute cannot understand what they mean. Even if we take the time to read the amendments, it’s often impossible to make sense out of the legalese as written on the ballot.

Take Amendment No. 1 in the Nov. 6 election, for instance: (H.J.R. No. 103): Providing for the continuation of the constitutional appropriation for facilities and other capital items at Angelo State University on a change in the governance of the university.

OK. Get me a map. Where is Angelo State University and why would I be qualified to make such a decision?

It should be no surprise that fewer than 10 percent of registered voters even bother to vote in these elections. Of those who do vote, many don’t even attempt to seriously study the issues. That means Texas law is made by default or the figurative toss of a coin.

The situation with the Texas Constitution is serious.

Historically, almost all amendments on the ballot end up passing. My theory is this: People figure that if officials in Austin think the amendments are important enough to appear on the ballot, they must be important enough to support. That is dangerous, and that is how we find ourselves facing the prospect of toll roads.

Remember Proposition 15 creating the "Texas Mobility Fund?" That sounded good enough that voters approved it by 67 percent, only to discover too late that it authorized the massive implementation of toll roads in Texas.

Many are wondering how this happened. Well, using my rule of thumb, I voted against it.

I have adopted another rule of thumb as recommended by Peter Stern, former information services director, university professor, public school administrator, and political writer. Vote against anything that says “bond” because that means more taxes.

This would include Proposition 12 on the Nov. 6 ballot:

Providing for the issuance of general obligation bonds by the Texas Transportation Commission in an amount not to exceed $5 billion to provide funding for highway improvement projects.

If you think the old Proposition 15 was a disaster, just try voting for this one. Instead of borrowing more money, how about monitoring how TxDOT spends its — correction — how it spends our tax money?

Another billion-dollar biggie in this election is Proposition 15: Requiring the creation of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas and authorizing the issuance of up to $3 billion in bonds payable from the general revenues of the state for research …

That one pulls at the heartstrings, but before you decide to fall for that, consider how much interest will be paid on $3 billion. What, specifically is the plan and where is the oversight?

Again, I agree with Stern. We first would need an unbiased board with nonpolitical oversight. We should not borrow money when the state has it in the bank, so to speak. Consider that billions and billions now are spent on cancer research, so how much difference would another $3 billion make? This sounds like another case of throwing money at the problem and hoping it will go away.

I will agree with Stern and vote for Proposition 9: Authorizing the legislature to exempt all or part of the residence homesteads of certain totally disabled veterans from ad valorem taxation…

Personally, I can’t think of a better way to spend our taxes than to help a disabled veteran.

To make sense of most of these issues, however, one would have to make a full-time career of research and study. This, of course, is what our elected officials in Austin are tasked with, but depending on them would mean we trust them to do the job they were elected to do and that would be a stretch for most of us.

Be careful how you vote; it may come back to haunt you. - One Opinion

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