Traffic Relief Ahead, Yes on Proposition 35
Under California constitutional law, services provided by state agencies generally must be performed by state civil service employees. In some cases the state may contract with private firms to obtain services. However, there are limitations as to when such contracting is allowed, for example, if services needed by the state are: (1) of a temporary nature, (2) not available within the civil service, or (3) of a highly specialized or technical nature. According to the argument in favor of Proposition 35, private contracting has been further limited by several lawsuits filed by Caltrans bureaucrats.
Proposition 35 would amend the State Constitution by eliminating restrictions on state, local contracting with private entities for engineering, architectural services; contracts awarded by competitive selection; bidding permitted, not required. In other words, the State Constitution would be amended to provide that in design, development and construction of public works projects, state government may choose to contract with private entities for engineering and architectural services without regard to certain existing legal restrictions, which apply to the procurement of other services.
The following are the highlights of the pro and con arguments as well as some of the key supporters. A few of the pro arguments include: giving state and local governments the option of contracting out will speed projects along; will allow California to once again make use of private sector earthquake experts to ensure the safety of highways and bridges; California’s population is growing, and there is enough work for both public and private engineers and architects. A few of the arguments against include: the purpose of the measure is to benefit private engineering firms, which paid to put it on the ballot; it will take a significant amount of time to develop new regulations for the new contracting process, which will delay projects even further and end up costing the state money; the measure does not adequately detail the new contract selection process, and that could lead to costly litigation. The key supporters of Proposition 35 are Structural Engineers Association of California, California Chamber of Commerce, California Taxpayers Association, and League of California Cities. The key opponents of Proposition 35 are Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Congress of California Seniors, Professional Engineers in California Government, and California State Employees Association.
Proposition 35 simply gives state and local government the flexibility to use private sector engineers and architects to complete long overdue highway, rail transit and other projects sooner, safely, and at $2.5 billion savings to taxpayers. Supporters of Proposition 35 highlight a few important points, including thousands of overdue highway and rail transit projects that must be completed to alleviate traffic and prepare us for the next quake. In order to complete these thousands of projects both Caltrans and private sector engineers and architects are needed to complete those projects. However, Caltrans bureaucrats stand in the way of accomplishing this by severely restricting government’s ability to contract with the private sector. Proposition 35 is the answer to these problems. Proposition 35 is the common sense initiative to fix the problem and allow public-private partnerships to complete projects sooner, safely, and at a $2.5 billion taxpayer savings. Proposition 35 will also speed up school improvements and other ailing infrastructure needs.
Those opposing Proposition 35 say that Proposition 35 changes the State Constitution to benefit one special interest at taxpayer expense. The opposition says that California currently awards engineering contracts based on cost, qualifications, and experience. However, the supporters of Proposition 35 suggest that private contracting has been limited by several lawsuits filed by Caltrans bureaucrats. Opponents of Proposition 35 argue that Proposition 35 changes California’s Constitution so large engineering corporations don’t have to abide by the rules. The opposition further suggests that Proposition 35 will delay construction of roads, schools, and health care facilities because a new set of state regulations will need to be established. According to the opposition, the delays will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
The most partisan supporter of Proposition 35 is the Structural Engineers Association of California. The Structural Engineers Association of California definitely has a special interest in making sure that Proposition 35 passes. The Structural Engineers Association of California represents the private sector engineers that will benefit from the state construction projects if Proposition 35 passes. If Proposition 35 passes, the members of the Structural Engineers Association of California will have more work projects. On the other hand, the most partisan opposition of Proposition 35 is the Professional Engineers in California Government and California State Employees Association. The California government engineers and Caltrans workers don’t want Proposition 35 to pass for obvious reasons. If Proposition 35 passes, the Caltrans worker will have less work and since their will be competitive prices, Caltrans can’t be so wasteful or they will have even less construction projects. Therefore, the pro and con positions have very partisan supporters because the pro has something to gain and the con has something to lose if Proposition 35 passes.
I hope and believe Proposition 35 will pass because I think taxpayers are sick of costly construction delays and the traffic delays. Personally, I have a problem with Caltrans doing construction on the highways during rush hour traffic causing huge backups and delays. By the time you drive past the construction area half of the Caltrans workers are standing around doing next to nothing and getting paid big bucks to be there. Without any competition the state worker union contracts allow for this waste, all at the taxpayers expense. I think many other rush hour commuters feel the same way as me and will vote for Proposition 35. I think California taxpayers are sick of the construction projects that seem to be taking forever to finish or are abandoned without being finished for years. I think these fed up taxpayers will vote for Proposition 35 hoping that the private sector will not let the same problems occur and will actually get the projects done as soon as possible. The prices for the construction projects will also become more competitive when the market becomes open to outside contractors.
California will be best served by adopting Proposition 35. Although the public and private sector will be working together to complete the thousands of projects, the private sector will most likely raise the Caltrans standards by being in competition with them. If the private sector were to let projects go unfinished or to delay projects for long periods of time, the private sector would be fired from the project or face daily delay of completion penalties. Unfortunately, Caltrans can’t be fired because under current law there is nobody else to finish the project. By adopting Proposition 35 this will all change. Caltrans will be forced to finish projects as soon as possible or they run the risk of the private sector being paid to finish the job. The competition that Proposition 35 will create will be beneficial to California’s taxpayers and commuters. Caltrans will not be able to get away with standing around on the job doing next to nothing. The construction projects will get done faster and cheaper so the commute delays will not last as long.
YES on Proposition 35 means road projects will be finished sooner. No on Proposition 35 means Caltrans delays and costly overruns. So, do you want the government to use the private sector to complete projects on time and on budget or would you rather continue the Caltrans status quo of costly delays? Would you rather have rail transit and traffic relief projects completed at $2.5 billion savings to taxpayers or continue to have more traffic and more bureaucratic delays? Would you rather have the roads, schools and hospitals made earthquake safe or have a dangerous backlog of school and highway earthquake retrofit projects? The choice is yours. Make the right decision, YES ON PROPOSITION 35!