Californians could vote on billions of dollars in new spending for low-income housing developments and water and parks improvements next year.
“We know that housing is such a major crisis up and down the state of California,” Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said. “The issue of aging infrastructure goes hand in hand. We need to strike while the iron is hot.”
Voters have long backed bond financing, which allows the state immediately to spend more money than is otherwise available and pay back the debt with interest over time. Over the last four decades, California voters have approved $164 billion in bond spending while only rejecting $18 billion, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.
But statewide bond proposals have been relatively few in recent years, with Brown and others bemoaning California’s “wall of debt,” which rose substantially during the economic recession and budget crisis as the state’s credit rating sunk. The governor supported a $7-billion water bond in 2014, but opposed last year’s $9-billion measure for school improvements, both of which were successful.
Brown is supporting bond spending in 2018. He’s announced that he’ll back a low-income housing bond as part of a package of measures to deal with the housing affordability crisis.
How much lawmakers will agree to spend on housing hasn’t been determined. The pending proposal calls for $3 billion to finance new construction of homes for low-income residents and preserve existing units. But that amount of money will do little to dent the state’s housing crisis and advocates want more.
“This is an opportunity to do something at a much larger scale,” Chiang said.
Housing is also competing with other major issues. De León has written a bond measure that would authorize nearly $4 billion in spending on water and parks improvements. A second bond from Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), which focuses more on parks than De León’s plan, also is pending.
Two outside groups have put forward initiatives that propose much higher spending on water projects, and they’re influencing the debate at the Capitol.
One measure, which has support from agricultural interests, calls for $8.7 billion in boosts to water infrastructure through funding conservation, recycling and storage projects as well as $200 million set aside for Oroville Dam repairs. The other, which is backed by organizations including the Nature Conservancy and
“You can see a pretty big squeeze play going on there,” said Joe Caves, an environmental consultant and author of the Nature Conservancy’s preferred measure.
Brown, De León said, has agreed to support a water-and-parks bond in addition to one for housing. Brown’s office declined to comment.
De León said his goal also is to agree to a bond package that would eliminate the need for competing ballot initiatives.
“Negotiations are always fluid and dynamic,” De León said. “We’ve had productive conversations. We cannot work at cross-purposes with each other.”
Despite the focus on the big-ticket items, supporters of more limited spending plans hope there’s enough room for them too.
Secretary of State
“If it doesn’t happen, it’s only a matter of time before the equipment itself begins to fail at increasing rates,” Padilla said.
While Brown and lawmakers are expected to put some bond measures on the 2018 ballot by the end of the legislative session, they still have plenty of time to add more when legislators return in January.
The proposals for bond measures under consideration for the 2018 ballot are:
- $3.1 billion for parks improvements in Assembly Bill 18 by Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella)
- $450 million for voting system improvements in Assembly Bill 668 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego)
- $3 billion for low-income housing development in Senate Bill 3 by Sen.
(D-San Jose) Jim Beall
- $3.8 billion for water and parks improvements in Senate Bill 5 by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles)
- $500 million for Salton Sea improvements in Senate Bill 701 by Sen.
(D-San Diego) Ben Hueso
- $7.9 billion for water improvements in a proposed initiative supported by groups including the Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund
- $8.7 billion for water improvements in a proposed initiative from Gerald Meral, former deputy director of the state Department of Water Resources
Please consider subscribing today to support stories like this one. Already a subscriber? Your support makes our work possible. Thank you. Get full access to our signature journalism for just 99 cents for the first four weeks.