Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill package to ask California voters to decide whether to spend a record $37 billion on roads and transit,
schools and flood control. The public works package is the largest bond issue
in state history.
In November, voters will be asked to consider four
propositions: $19.9 billion for transportation; $10.4 billion for education;
$4.1 billion for flood control; and $2.85 billion for housing, The
Associated Press reported.
The package is just more than half of the $68 billion in
borrowing initially sought by Schwarzenegger in January. But the governor said
he was pleased with the result.
“We will build more freeways and lanes, especially HOV
(high-occupancy vehicle) lanes … to ease the traffic congestions and also to
improve the air quality,” Schwarzenegger said at the bill signing.
The transportation bond – SB1266 – would provide funding to
relieve traffic congestion throughout the state. Much of the nearly $20 billion
would be earmarked for commercial corridors and to help move goods from ports
in the state.
The proposal includes $4.5 billion for relieving congestion;
$4 billion for public transportation; $3.1 billion for port and airport
infrastructure; and $2 billion for local street and road improvements.
The governor also approved an amendment to the state’s
constitution that would authorize further protections to ensure state fuel
taxes are spent on transportation. It now heads to voters in a statewide
In 2002, California voters overwhelmingly approved
Proposition 42 requiring fuel pump sales tax revenues to be used solely for
transportation. However, that law allows the governor and state lawmakers to divert
the money in the case of a fiscal emergency.
The proposed amendment – SCA7 – would limit the number of
times lawmakers could dip into those revenues for the state budget and require
them to repay the money within a few years.
Also approved was a bill to establish public-private
partnerships for goods movements.
The new law, previously AB1467, authorizes the state to
partner with private groups to build four toll routes and four high-occupancy
vehicle lane projects.
Two public-private projects will be allowed in northern California and two more in southern California. Two HOV lane projects will be allowed in
northern California and two more in southern California.
The Legislature will have final approval on the projects.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor