In Several States, Ballot Issues Focus on Children
Undated (AP) _ Voters in Washington state and Michigan may increase education taxes, quake-weary San Franciscans may finance a new stadium to keep their pennant- winning baseball team from fleeing, and Texans may spare politicians from having to swear they didn’t bribe their way into office.
In all, voters in 10 states will face 56 statewide issues and dozens of local ballot measures Tuesday.
Texas voters tackle the heaviest load: 21 statewide propositions, including a $500 million bond issue to extend running water and sewers to disease-ridden border towns, another to finance a record build-up of the state’s prison system, and one to drop a 113-year-old provision requiring state officeholders to publicly affirm that they gained their jobs honestly.
Among other key contests, Maine voters will consider a non-binding measure asking if they want to ban cruise missile testing within their state and a second asking whether they approve of an agreement to dispose of Maine’s nuclear waste at a facility in Beatty, Nev.
Locally, San Franciscans will decide whether to build a new $115 million ballpark to replace aging, windswept Candlestick Park and keep the baseball Giants from leaving town. The measure is strongly backed by Mayor Art Agnos, but polls suggest the multibillion-dollar expenses from the recent earthquake have eroded support.
A second San Francisco ballot measure would allow unmarried couples, including homosexuals, to formally establish their relationships as ″domestic partners.″ Registered partners working for the city would be entitled to the same funeral leave benefits as married people, if their partner dies.
A large turnout is expected in nearby Concord, Calif., where an ordinance banning discrimination in housing, employment and other areas against AIDS victims was approved by the City Council but placed on the ballot after protests by outraged residents who collected 10,000 signatures.
Seattle residents will decide a measure that would end forced school busing and promote educational choice.
In St. Louis, voters will consider a 4-cent property tax increase to subsidize the St. Louis Symphony. Symphony officials said the orchestra has gone as far as it can in raising money from the wealthy and raising ticket prices. But critics in the Missouri Legislature have called the symphony elitist.
Voters in New York City, under U.S. Supreme Court order to replace its legislative system with a more representative one, will weigh a complicated charter revision that would strengthen the mayor and the City Council, while scrapping the 89-year-old Board of Estimate. The measure is expected to pass easily.
In Texas, there has been little opposition to Proposition 2, which would authorize $500 million in bonds for basic water and sewer systems in the substandard border subdivisions called colonias. An estimated 200,000 people live in colonias, where sewage runs in irrigation ditches and dysentery, hepatitis and tuberculosis are common.
″It’s sometimes very easy for us who have running water to just open the tap and get it, and we forget about others who don’t,″ said Amalia Lerma of Valley Interfaith, one of the groups backing the bond issue.
The package also includes $400 million for water supply, water quality and flood control projects around the state.
Texans also will decide whether to approve $400 million in tax-backed bonds for the biggest prison buildup in state history, along with new mental health institutions, juvenile corrections facilities and law enforcement.
Texas Proposition 13 would enshrine a ″victims bill of rights″ in the state constitution, giving victims the ability to confer with the prosecutor, receive restitution and get information about an accused’s conviction, sentence, imprisonment and release.
Another Texas measure would eliminate the oath now taken by elected officials and others who must swear - often during public ceremonies in front of family and friends - that they didn’t bribe anyone to get their jobs.
The provision was added to the Texas constitution in reaction to corruption during the Reconstruction Era. But some now feel the oath is outdated and undignified.
In Washington state, Initiative 102, called the ″Children’s Initiative,″ would boost the state’s 6.5-cent sales tax by nearly a penny to provide at least $360 million for social and education programs.
Big business led by Boeing Co. recently created a stir by contributing about $50,000 to opponents of the initiative, who include Republican conservatives. Opponents brand the initiative a disguised teacher raise.
Backers, mainly teacher and public employee groups and social service organizations, say the unmet needs of children are staggering. They range from more child protective caseworkers to handle a growing number of kids taken from crack-addicted parents, to an overwhelmed system for the developmentally disabled, to overcrowded classrooms as parts of Washington experiences a surge in growth.
In Michigan, voters will consider two ballot proposals, each of which would raise the state sales tax to provide more money for schools.
Proposal A, backed by Gov. James Blanchard, teacher organizations and major corporations, would increase the sales tax to 4.5 percent from 4 percent to generate $400 million more for schools.
Proposal B, with no organized backing and a tiny budget, would raise the sales tax to 6 percent, cut property taxes some $1.5 billion and put about $350 million more into schools.
″Proposal A has money and B doesn’t,″ said state Sen. Dan DeGrow, a Proposal B backer. ″But they both face an uphill fight.″
Both, or neither, could pass. If both garner majorities, the one with the larger one would prevail.
The Michigan State Chamber of Commerce wants voters to reject both.
″The further we get away from the Capitol, the better the reception,″ said chamber vice president Richard Studley.
David Rohde, a political science professor at Michigan State University, said: ″There is indeed a lot of cynicism, at least about anything that involves spending money and increasing taxes to spend money. It’s not impossible, but any tax increase has a tough row to hoe.″