California voters have approved a ballot measure allowing the state borrow $4 billion for parks and conservation projects that proponents say will help ensure access to clean drinking water.
Proposition 68 — one of five statewide measures on the ballot — passed Tuesday with 56 percent of the vote. The measure lets California issue general obligation bonds to fund parks in underserved neighborhoods and provide money for flood-prevention and clean drinking water projects.
It also includes $200 million to help preserve the state's largest lake, the Salton Sea, which has been evaporating since San Diego's regional water agency stopped sending it water. The lake's shrinkage has swept dust into nearby communities and threatened bird habitat.
Supporters argued that the measure will help California mitigate natural disasters such as wildfires and floods and expand community access to parks, while opponents didn't want the state to take on new bond debt. Dan Jacobson, director of Environment California, welcomed the vote as a sign that the state's residents are making parks and clean water a priority.
"Protecting the environment is not easy and it's not cheap," he said. "But taking steps to protect it is better than losing it forever."
In a separate vote, Californians rejected a proposal to change how the state allocates revenue from its cap-and-trade program. The program generates billions of dollars each year by requiring polluters to buy permits to release greenhouse gases.
About 62 percent of votes were cast against Proposition 70. The measure would have required a one-time, two-thirds majority vote in the Legislature on how program money is spent, which could have given Republicans a greater say in the process. Voters approved three other measures on the ballot.
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Proposition 69, which was backed by groups representing construction companies and workers, requires the state legislature to use money from a recently-approved diesel tax and vehicle fee to fund transportation projects. Lawmakers voted to put the measure on the ballot last year when they passed the gas tax increase, which Republicans want to repeal through a separate ballot initiative in November.
"The overwhelming victory is a signal that fixing roads is a high priority for Californians," Rich Garbarino, president of the League of California Cities, said in a statement.
The other two measures give tax breaks to homeowners who install rain capture devices and delay the effective start date for ballot measures by about six weeks.