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California voters will be asked for billions to fund climate and school facilities, lawmakers say

A lawmaker said California lawmakers will soon ask voters for billions of dollars in bond money to fund two priority goals: school facilities and climate change initiatives.

Members of Parliament Al MuratsuchiDemocrat from Torrance, said Thursday that lawmakers will begin negotiations with Gov. Gavin Newsom next week to put the two bonds on the November ballot.

The governor, House Speaker Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, and Senate President pro tempore Michael McGuireD-Healdsburg, must qualify their proposals for the general election by June 27. Rivas and McGuire did not respond to requests for comment by the deadline.

“As I understand it, the leadership of the Assembly and Senate have decided that school bonds and climate bonds will be the top legislative priorities when it comes to bond measures,” Muratsuchi said.

Bond measures would first require the approval of Parliament and then a majority of voters in November.

A decision to push forward these bonds would put an end to the bond race that has been going on since last year.

They made many suggestions that lawmakers could have put before voters, including bonds to combat fentanyl addiction and build housing.

But Rivas and others have been hinting for months that politicians will have to be selective about how they pass the bonds and the amount of money they ask Californians to pay. Towards the end of last year's legislative session, the Senate and Assembly Rules Committees announced they would make all 2024 bond measures two-year laws, halting their passage by the Capitol for the coming year.

Legislative leaders took the step to push through Newsom's Proposition 1, a $6.4 billion mental health bond that voters narrowly passed, in the March primary.

Muratsuchi was the author of Assembly Bill 247, a $14 billion bond to fund construction and upgrade projects for facilities ranging from kindergartens to community colleges. The lawmaker said he expects his bond to land “in the $10 billion to $12 billion range.”

He said politicians would negotiate the differences between AB 247 and Sen. Steve Glazer's (D-Orinda) Senate Bill 28, which calls for $15 billion for school facilities. Unlike Muratsuchi's bond, Glazer's measure would fund improvements at the University of California and California State University campuses.

Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and Representative Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) have both authored bond bills that would ask voters to appropriate more than $15 billion to fund water quality and conservation programs, flood protection, wildfire prevention, clean energy projects and more.

Bonds are often seen as an attractive way to gain approval for popular projects without placing a major immediate burden on the state budget. The state is struggling with an estimated budget deficit of $45 billion, which could make bonds more politically attractive.

Despite Newsom's narrow majority on Proposition 1, Muratsuchi remains optimistic that voters will be willing to fund school improvements.

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

Anna Harden

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