California bond measures, explained


Yes, we know, there are a lot of Bonds. James
Bonds. Then, there are these bonds. The ones Californians
check yes or no for nearly every election — whether they understand what a bond really
is or not. So how do these bonds work? I’m Judy Lin, economy reporter at CalMatters.
I’m explaining the kind of questions that keep showing up on your ballots: bond measures. Bonds are loans. When a government issues
a bond, taxpayers pay that loan back over time with interest. But before the government can do that, voters
have to approve the borrowing. That’s where you come in. Voting yes for a bond does not directly raise
your taxes. Instead, you’re agreeing to take on debt — limiting what the government
can spend for things like shortening those lines t the DMV or paying more to teachers
in classrooms. Right now, the state spends about 3 percent
of the general fund on repaying bonds each year. During the last recession, it was double
that. And, the question most taxpayers are wondering. How much does a bond cost me? Let’s do the math. Say the state takes out
a $15 billion bond. It’ll cost $26 billion to repay over 35 years. That works out an
average of $18.57 each year until that loan is paid off. Bonds are better-used for big-ticket infrastructure
projects that benefit multiple generations. It’s not good to use them for ongoing expenses
like salaries, paying pensions or healthcare bills. Like the most famous Bond, other bonds keep
reappearing in sequel after sequel. Governments find new needs all the time. And as old bonds
are paid off, the government will still ask voters to OK new ones. I’m Judy Lin. If you’re interested in
learning more about California politics, check out CalMatters.org and hit the subscribe to
our YouTube channel.

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