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California Lawmakers Considering Asking Voters to Approve $60.5 Billion in Bond Proposals

California Lawmakers Considering Asking Voters to Approve $60.5 Billion in Bond Proposals

Pierce College in Los Angeles on Nov. 16, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

6/5/2024

Updated: 6/11/2024

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Facing the June 27 deadline to have ballot measures qualify for the November ballot, lawmakers are considering bond proposals—two related to climate resilience and two funding school facilities—totaling nearly $60.5 billion.
At current interest rates, if the measures are approved by voters, lawmakers, and the governor, they could cost nearly $120 billion to repay over 30 years.
Assembly Bill 247, authored by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, would allow voters to establish the Transitional Kindergarten Through Community College Education Facilities Bond Act of 2024, which would authorize $14 billion in bonds to fund new construction and the modernization of outdated facilities.
“California schools are woefully run down and need fixing in order to make sure that our kids benefit from 21st-century schools,” Mr. Muratsuchi told The Epoch Times. “We have health and safety concerns ... and we need to make sure that we have clean and safe learning environments for all Californians regardless of where they live.”
About 30 percent of K–12 classrooms in the state are at least 50 years old and 10 percent are 70 years old, according to the California Department of Education.
Public schools statewide need more than $100 billion to update facilities, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
Community colleges in the Golden State need about $30 billion in facilities upgrades, according to the board of governors overseeing the system.
With about three weeks to go before the constitutional deadline, the author said lawmakers are looking to see the measure approved before then.
“We’re working hard to get it on the November 2024 ballot,” Mr. Muratsuchi said. “That is my goal.”
Proponents say the bill is needed to improve school grounds and point to a 2017 report by the California Policy Lab as evidence that such upgrades also improve academic performance.
“It’s an investment in our children and an investment in our communities’ future and our future workforce,” Mr. Muratsuchi said. “Investing in our children early on ... has impacts on our economy and our communities.”
With existing state bond funds for school facilities already fully committed, supporters of the new bond measure say the money is needed to accommodate growth, help local agencies implement universal school mandates and other policy changes, and provide learning opportunities.
“AB 247 would provide critical resources for renovation and upgrades of aging classrooms,” the Coalition for Adequate School Housing—a nonprofit based in Sacramento—said in legislative analyses. “School districts—and most importantly, students—are being forced to wait several years for the state funding for which their shovel-ready projects qualify.”
The Assembly’s Appropriations Committee estimated the ultimate cost of the bonds to the state at about $27 billion—including $13 billion in interest payments over 30 years.
To place the measure on the ballot, the state would have to pay about $1.6 million for printing and mailing, according to the California secretary of state’s office.
Senate Bill 28, introduced by state Sen. Steven Glazer, would authorize voters to consider $15 billion in bonds for the construction and modernization of public schools, community colleges, and universities across the state.
About $9 billion would be allocated to preschool through 12th-grade schools, $2 billion for community colleges, and $2 billion each for the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems—with the universities’ existing needs of about $7.3 billion and $6.5 billion, respectively.
“Without sufficient funding, the UC and CSU’s will not meet their capital renewal needs,” Mr. Glazer said in legislative analyses.
Highlighting a need to upgrade fire, seismic, and safety features in public schools, the bill’s author said the measure is needed to protect students—citing statistics showing that 60 school districts closed 108 schools between 2015 and 2019.
Bonds associated with SB 28 could cost the state as much as $28 billion to repay, including interest payments over a 30-year period, according to the Senate’s Appropriations Committee.
Ballot preparation and mailings would cause the state to incur one-time costs of slightly less than $1 million, and school districts could face expenditures of up to $300,000 to produce five-year plans, which are required to receive funding from bond sales.
Both school facilities bond proposals are like a measure rejected by voters in 2020, Proposition 13, which failed after receiving 47 percent of the vote.
A motorist on Highway 101 watches flames from the Thomas fire north of Ventura on Dec. 6, 2017.  (Noah Berger/AP Photo)

A motorist on Highway 101 watches flames from the Thomas fire north of Ventura on Dec. 6, 2017.  (Noah Berger/AP Photo)

Senate Bill 867, authored by state Sen. Ben Allen, would authorize a $15.5 billion bond for voters to consider in November.
Funds generated through bond sales would help address droughts, floods, water resilience, wildfires, and other climate-related issues.
“SB 867 will provide the necessary investment to help our state become more resilient to climate change,” Mr. Allen said in legislative analyses. “If passed by the voters, this bond will provide funding for concrete on-the-ground measures that will help reduce the severity, frequency, and impacts of climate-related natural disasters.”
Citing a recent climate assessment conducted by the state, he noted that climate-related costs to California could surpass $113 billion annually by 2050.
If approved by voters, the bonds could ultimately cost the state $30.2 billion, according to the Senate’s Appropriations Committee.
Ballot costs could reach as high as $984,000, according to the California secretary of state’s office.
A car sits partially submerged on a flooded road during a storm in Long Beach, Calif., on Feb. 1, 2024. (David Swanson/AFP via Getty Images)

A car sits partially submerged on a flooded road during a storm in Long Beach, Calif., on Feb. 1, 2024. (David Swanson/AFP via Getty Images)

Assembly Bill 1567, introduced by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, would place a $15.955 billion climate resilience bond measure on the November ballot.
About one-third of the total, $5 billion, would be focused on reducing the effects of drought and floods, as well as protecting water supplies and safe drinking water. About $2.2 billion would be earmarked for wildfire prevention and climate risk reduction; $1.9 billion for protecting coastal lands, bays, and oceans; $1.6 billion for protecting wildlife; and $820 million for farms and ranches.
The author said the money is desperately needed and suggested that proposed cuts to climate-related projects—being considered to address the budget deficit—could prove detrimental.
“We can’t afford to do that because climate continues to have devastating impacts on communities,” Mr. Garcia told The Epoch Times. “We’re hearing from communities across the state that where we’re falling short on our intentions, and we want to make sure that we get it right and that all voices are heard.”
He acknowledged the limited amount of time to get the ballot measure approved and said he is working with colleagues to meet the deadline.
“We’re now having conversations with our friends in the Senate,” Mr. Garcia told The Epoch Times. “And we recognize that we are under a very tight timeframe, and we recognize the importance of the subject ... and these investments.”
Supporters said the bond measure is needed to address issues resulting from climate change.
“The need for statewide investment to increase the resilience of communities and natural systems is greater than ever before,” The Nature Conservancy—a global environment-focused nonprofit headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, said in legislative analyses.
State expenditures to cover the bonds would total about $31 billion, including principal and interest, according to the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee.
About $2.3 million would be needed to place the measure on the ballot, according to the California secretary of state’s office.
Ballot costs vary by measure because of the number of pages printed for mailing, with a cost of about $123,000 per page.
Actual costs to the state to repay bondholders will depend on prevailing interest rates when the bonds are issued.
Based on the amount of bond issuance in recent years, it could take some time to sell the new bonds if approved, depending on market demand, according to legislative consultants.
“Projects with voter-approved bond authority ... may have to wait to receive the necessary cash,” consultants with the Senate’s Legislative Governance and Finance Committee wrote in an April 2023 analysis.
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Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

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Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.

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