The Brown administration made clear Monday it opposes a proposed multibillion-dollar school bond for the November ballot, as the chairman of a key Senate committee voiced concerns that the borrowing measure favors suburban communities.
Proponents of Assembly Bill 2235 have said they believe they have until the end of this week to pass a measure in time to get it on the fall ballot. The last school bond was in 2006, and the current pot of school-bond dollars is virtually empty, they say, leaving school districts unable to modernize existing classrooms or build new ones. The bond, initially set to be $9 billion, is expected to be about half that size after amendments.
Yet the school bond’s end-of-session prospects got murkier Monday in the Senate Appropriations Committee. The panel’s leader, state Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, called the current proposal “suburban-centric.” He warned the measure’s author, Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, that the bond would not advance later this week unless its formula becomes more “equitable” for urban areas.
Also during the committee hearing, a representative of Brown’s Department of Finance formally conveyed the administration’s opposition to the bond. The announcement came eight months after Brown’s January budget proposal highlighted his dislike of any school-bond construction program with “an unsustainable reliance” on state debt.
Buchanan said she would work with de León to address his concerns. As for Brown’s position, Buchanan said it would unravel a 16-year-old framework of paying for classroom projects with a mix of building fees, local borrowing measures and state bonds. In addition, homebuilders have said that a 1998 law would cause building fees to double without a November bond.
Buchanan revealed another reason behind AB 2235 supporters’ November-or-bust push: The 2016 ballot, when the presidential race will likely increase turnout among bond-friendly voters, might already include a school-related proposal to extend the temporary tax increases approved by voters in 2012. Proposition 30’s sales-tax increase is scheduled to expire at the end of 2016 and the higher income-tax rates on wealthy residents will end in 2018.