Jul 31, 2020 · 4 min read

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Engages on Key California Ballot Measures


Today, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), announced additional funding for two 2020 California ballot measure committees. This includes an additional $4.5 million in support of Proposition 15, which would restore an estimated $12 billion annually in much-needed local revenue to California communities by closing commercial property tax loopholes; and $1 million to the No on Proposition 20 campaign to oppose a measure that would incarcerate more people for low-level crimes and increase already bloated prison budgets.

CZI first announced its support for the California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act (Proposition 15) in 2018. If approved by voters, the measure will help local communities meet their most urgent needs — from public hospitals and community health clinics to support for local schools — at a time when other funding sources like the state budget are facing historic shortfalls. The need is particularly acute in communities of color and low-income communities, many with large populations of essential workers who have been disproportionately harmed by COVID-19 and its economic fallout. The campaign reports that just 10 percent of landowners will pay 92 percent of the new tax revenue.

Proposition 15 is currently the only statewide measure on the November ballot designed to generate and stabilize funding for vulnerable communities — by ensuring that large corporations are assessed for taxation at their market value — and would put funding directly into the hands of cities and counties across California who are on the frontlines of the pandemic response. To date, CZI has granted $1.805 million to the campaign and is contributing an additional $4.5 million today, bringing total support for the measure to just over $6.3 million. CZI joins a diverse coalition of labor and faith leaders, educators, small businesses, mayors, dozens of elected officials, and others in its support.

“For generations, there has been profound inequity in the way we resource local services — with disinvestment over time and an increasingly limited ability for local communities to address their most pressing needs,” said Michael Troncoso, Head of Justice & Opportunity at CZI. “Even before COVID-19, Black and Brown communities have lacked the resources needed to sustain adequate local health care systems, protect essential workers, and support our schools. This systematic disinvestment was built into the law, and we now have the historic opportunity, through Proposition 15, to correct it and get our communities the support they need.”

Additionally, CZI announced $1 million of additional funding for efforts to oppose Proposition 20, for a total of $1.25 million. In recent years, California has enacted smart reforms to reduce the prison population and divert funds from prisons to rehabilitation programs proven to reduce recidivism and support communities impacted by crime. Proposition 20 would roll back critical criminal justice reform accomplishments voted in by Californians since 2011.

“Proposition 20 seeks to return California to the failed ‘tough on crime’ days by authorizing new felonies for petty crimes and cutting access to rehabilitation programs in prison,” said Ana Zamora, Director of Criminal Justice Reform at CZI. “If passed, more people will be sent to prison, rehabilitation programs will be slashed, and taxpayers will pay the price. In the pandemic environment especially, when we see COVID-19 sweeping through overcrowded prisons and people are dying, it is both irrational and cruel to pass new laws sending more people away.”

CZI has been a strong proponent of decarcerative efforts across the country — as the U.S. locks up more people per capita than any other nation — but it’s even more critical as COVID-19 circulates through correctional facilities. Mass confinement is putting hundreds of thousands of lives at risk across the state, including at San Quentin State Prison, which is seeing extremely high rates of infection.

These efforts are funded by CZI’s Justice & Opportunity Initiative, which helps tackle systemic barriers to opportunity through its work in criminal justice reform, housing affordability, and immigration reform. Since 2016, CZI has supported multiple ballot measures at the state and local level, including San Francisco Proposition A (2016 education bond measure), Measure U in Redwood City (funded elementary and middle schools), San Mateo County Measure A (sales tax for accessible housing in San Mateo County), California Proposition 1 (2018 housing measure), and Ohio Issue 1 (2018 criminal justice reform measure).


About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

Founded by Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in 2015, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) is a new kind of philanthropy that’s leveraging technology to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease, to improving education, to reforming the criminal justice system. Across three core Initiative focus areas of Science, Education, and Justice & Opportunity, we’re pairing engineering with grant-making, impact investing, and policy and advocacy work to help build an inclusive, just and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit chanzuckerberg.com.

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