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Editorial: Journal recommends ‘yes’ on bonds, ‘no’ on election public financing questions

General obligation bonds and two propositions appear on Albuquerque’s unified ballot this year. The Journal Editorial Board is encouraging voters to pass all GO bonds, as well as a tax renewal for transportation, but to vote against both propositions.

For full election coverage, visit Election guide on abqjournal.com.

City general obligation bonds – for

Approval of a slate of municipal general obligation bonds would provide $128.5 million in funding for a variety of infrastructure projects, all needed to improve the quality of our city’s built environment. These 11 measures won’t increase property taxes; should all 11 requests fail, owners of a $200,000 home would save just $5 per month. Essential projects that need this bond funding include:

• $21.7 million for “senior, family, community center, homeless and community enhancement bonds.” Around $14 million of this is earmarked for a centralized, low-barrier, 24/7 homeless shelter that’s a necessary step in addressing the widespread and increasing number of people experiencing homelessness in Albuquerque and the surrounding Metro area.

• $8.6 million for public safety to improve and acquire property – including land, vehicles and equipment – for police and fire departments.

• $16.8 million in parks and recreation funding, which includes money for a West Side indoor sports complex.

• $32.9 million for important street improvement projects, including widening Westside Boulevard between Golf Course and N.M. 528.

• $8.8 million for public libraries, including a library in the International District.

Other bond measures on the ballot would pay for energy and water conservation, public transportation, storm sewers, museum and cultural facilities, Albuquerque’s Workforce Housing program and metropolitan redevelopment.

Transportation tax renewal – for

The transportation tax renewal measure would keep a small gross receipts tax – ¼ of a penny – in place to continue providing a dedicated revenue stream for road infrastructure as well as transit, trails and bikeways. It guarantees funding to keep our roads drivable and also deserves voters’ approval.

Prop 1: Public finance update – against

If all Proposition 1 did was clean up language and loopholes in the city’s public financing program, it would be a no-brainer.

The Journal reluctantly recommends a ‘no’ vote on this measure, however, because instead of simply tightening up definitions around what constitutes an in-kind donation – an important undertaking given abuses in the last mayoral election – the proposition would also dramatically increase the amount of taxpayer money handed out to mayoral candidates.

In the system in place today, qualified mayoral candidates get $1 per registered city voter, which in 2017 amounted to $380,000. Under Proposition 1, that amount would increase to $1.75 per voter, or about $665,000. It’s never been made clear how pouring that much additional money into a mayoral race would benefit voters or make elections more fair. Voters should turn this measure down and demand just the in-kind fix.

Prop 2: Democracy Dollars – against

Approval of Proposition 2 would set up Democracy Dollars, a program to provide eligible Albuquerque residents with a $25 taxpayer-funded coupon to give to an eligible candidate of their choosing in a city election. The funds would be added to those provided by the city’s current public finance system. Proponents of the program hope it will encourage more people to register to vote and more varied and diverse candidates to run for office, while simultaneously pushing all candidates to engage more deeply with prospective constituents.

It’s a beautiful dream – but there’s no analysis of how much it would cost taxpayers. And since Democracy Dollars would stack on top of public financing, it would add to election spending – one of the problems such programs purport to address.

It’s also concerning that Democracy Dollars doesn’t require recipients be registered voters, just residents. That’s a system waiting to be abused by a fringe group on either side of the aisle.

Voters deserve a thoroughly analyzed proposal and should send this measure back to its authors for changes before allowing yet more hands to dig in to taxpayers’ pockets.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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