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Denny Zane and Gloria Ohland: How to turn Measure J defeat into victory - LA Daily News
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Denny Zane and Gloria Ohland: How to turn Measure J
defeat into victory
By De nny Zane and Gloria O hland
Poste d: 12/13/2012 04:39:11 PM PST
Update d: 12/13/2012 04:39:55 PM PST
Only in California would getting 66 percent of the vote be a defeat instead of a landslide victory.
Losing Measure J by 0.56 percentage points, even as it won 66.11 percent of the popular vote, was a painful and,
frankly, appalling reminder that the ghost of Howard Jarvis still hovers over California.
But out of disappointment emerges opportunity: It's important to remember that Measure J was actually "Plan B"
for financing the 30-10 plan to build out Los Angeles County's Measure R-funded rail expansion in 10 years
instead of 30.
"Plan A" was an innovative federal financing package - called America Fast Forward -- that was a combination of
two proposals: 1) the TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act) low-interest loan
program, and 2) a new class of qualified tax credit bonds called QTIBs (Qualified Transportation Improvement
QTIBs would have allowed issuers to finance more than twice the dollar value of capital improvements than is
possible with traditional tax-exempt bonds, thereby easing demand for financially constrained federal grant
programs. Congress considered both components of the America Fast Forward proposal but enacted only the
TIFIA program.
Speculation at the time was that the QTIB program reminded Republicans of the Build America Bond Program,
surely one of the most successful components of President Obama's stimulus package. In an election year,
Republicans were not willing to
embrace anything invoking an Obama success.
But the election is over, and a new dynamic is in
place. The transportation bill signed into law last
July that included the dramatically expanded TIFIA
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program was only a two-year bill, instead of the
normal six years, forcing Congress to pick up
deliberations on a new bill in the near term.
This creates opportunity for Congress to reconsider
the QTIB program, which together with TIFIA would
allow L.A. County to accelerate Measure R without
Measure J. After all, the QTIB program is a very
Republican-friendly idea -- it involves public-private
partnerships, allowing private lenders to loan money
to transit agencies with the federal government
providing tax credits to lower the interest rate.
This could be a good way to turn a sow's ear -Measure J's defeat -- into a silk purse by creating
the momentum for a successful national program
that could finance acceleration of Measure R and
provide similar benefit to other regions.
Or we could turn a sow's ear into two silk purses by recognizing that the two-thirds supermajority requirement for
the passage of a special tax really is a perversion of democracy.
Assemblyman Henry Perea, a moderate Democrat from Fresno, has authored a bill to place a constitutional
amendment on the ballot that would reduce the voter threshold for passage of local transportation funding
measures to 55 percent.
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Move LA has endorsed this amendment, as has Mobility 21, a coalition of seven county transportation
commissions and six chambers of commerce and other business alliances, including the American Automobile
Association. At the request of Move LA, Perea amended the bill to provide that, if approved by voters, the
measure would be effective immediately. This means it would apply to every qualifying local measure on the
ballot -- these measures would only need a 55 percent majority.
Last year, a poll of Southern California voters found 64 percent would support reducing the voter threshold to 55
Denny Zane and Gloria Ohland: How to turn Measure J defeat into victory - LA Daily News
Last year, a poll of Southern California voters found 64 percent would support reducing the voter threshold to 55
percent for transportation funding measures. It is important to note that those six counties represent half of all
voters in the State of California and mirror the makeup of the statewide electorate.
Tw eet
Moreover, the results of this November's election appear likely to give Democrats two-thirds votes in both
legislative branches, the number required to place a constitutional amendment before state voters. And because
it would not raise taxes, there's even the possibility of Republican support.
Is it possible that Gov. Jerry Brown, fresh off the forward momentum of Proposition 30 and Democratic gains in
both houses of the Legislature, could become interested in a partnership with the Southern California businesslabor-environmental coalition that supported Measure J? Would he work with us to change the local voter
threshold for new transportation revenue sources?
We are betting on it. Together we could return California to responsible democratic governance rather than the
perversion of democracy that is the two-thirds vote requirement. Two silk purses are well worth enduring a sow's
Denny Zane is executive director and Gloria Ohland is policy and communications director of the nonprofit Move
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