California voters will be asked for billions to fund climate, school facilities, lawmaker says

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California lawmakers are poised to ask voters for billions of dollars in bond money to fund two priorities: school facilities and climate change initiatives, a legislator said.

Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, said Thursday that lawmakers next week will begin negotiating with Gov. Gavin Newsom to place the two bonds on the November ballot.

The governor, Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, and Senate President Pro Tem Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, face a June 27 deadline to qualify measures for the general election. Rivas and McGuire did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.

“It is my understanding that the Assembly and Senate leadership have determined that the school bond and the climate bonds are going to be the top legislative priorities as far as bond measures are concerned,” Muratsuchi said.

Bond measures would need to first win legislative approval, then win a majority of voters in November.

A decision to push these bonds would end a bond scramble that lawmakers have engaged in since last year.

They put forward many proposals the Legislature could have advanced to voters, including bonds to combat fentanyl addiction and build housing.

But Rivas and others have signaled for months that leaders would need to be selective about the bonds that move forward and the amount of money they seek from Californians. Toward the end of last year’s legislative session, the Senate and Assembly Rules committees announced they were making all 2024 bond measures two-year bills, halting their progress through the Capitol for the year.

Legislative leaders made that move to clear the March primary ballot for Newsom’s Proposition 1, a $6.4 billion mental health care bond that voters barely approved.

Muratsuchi authored Assembly Bill 247, a $14 billion bond to fund construction and modernization projects for kindergarten through community college facilities. The assemblyman said he expects his bond to end up “in the neighborhood of $10 to $12 billion.”

He said leaders will be negotiating differences between AB 247 and Senate Bill 28 from Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, which seeks $15 billion for school facilities. Unlike Muratsuchi’s bond, Glazer’s measure would fund improvements at University of California and California State University campuses.

Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, and Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, both authored bills that would turn into bond measures asking voters for more than $15 billion to fund programs around water quality and conservation, flood management, wildfire prevention, clean energy projects and more.

Bonds are often regarded as attractive ways to win approval for popular projects without having an large, immediate impact on the state budget. The state is grappling with an estimated $45 billion deficit, which could make bonds more politically appealing.

In spite of the narrow margins Newsom saw with Proposition 1, Muratsuchi remains optimistic voters will want to fund school improvements.

“Californians of all political stripes have historically demonstrated their strongest support for investing in our children, in our schools,” he said.