Capitol Alert

AM Alert: California’s debt ratio on the way down

California voters passed a new $9 billion school construction bond this year, but the state’s debt ratio is still projected to fall over the next several years.
California voters passed a new $9 billion school construction bond this year, but the state’s debt ratio is still projected to fall over the next several years. lsterling@sacbee.com

As lawmakers head home from far-flung foreign lands to enjoy Thanksgiving with their loved ones, the pre-holiday rush for policy wonks exploded Tuesday evening.

▪ Late vote counting progressed enough for the Associated Press to determine that Proposition 53’s bond restrictions had failed and Proposition 66’s death penalty speed-up had passed.

▪ The state’s largest employee union, SEIU Local 1000, is fed up with Gov. Jerry Brown ’s contract negotiating stance and decided to set a strike date of Dec. 5. Is it saber-rattling or a real possibility?

▪ The transportation special session, which never seemed to pick up much steam, was finally declared dead by Brown and legislative leaders. As Democrats close in on a two-thirds margin – enough to, say, pass a gas tax increase without Republicans – the governor is hopeful a roads plan can get done next year.

Amid all that comes this nugget in the recently released fiscal outlook by the Legislature’s nonpartisan analyst:

Even with voters’ Nov. 8 approval of $9 billion in borrowing for school construction, California’s debt service ratio is on track to drop below 5 percent over the next several years.

The ratio, an indicator of the state’s debt burden, reflects how much general fund revenue and transfers go to pay off past borrowing. It rose to 6 percent in the late 2000s after voters approved tens of billions of dollars in borrowing for roads, schools and parks.

But the ratio has declined to about 5 percent as general fund revenue grew, debt was refinanced, and the payback cost for some borrowing, such as transportation, was shifted to special funds.

WORTH REPEATING: “I don’t think when push comes to shove the votes are going to be there.” - Sen. Dianne Feinstein, on KQED, suggesting the Republican-controlled Congress will not repeal Obamacare

REMEMBER THIS BILL?: In 2009, California passed the “Donda West Law,” requiring patients to get a physical examination and receive clearance from a doctor before undergoing elective plastic surgery. The legislation was named for the mother and former manager of rapper Kanye West, who died in 2007 a day after a liposuction and breast reduction operation. The tragic event shook West, who has since written many emotional songs for his mother – and she surfaced again on Saturday during the rant that prematurely ended his Sacramento concert. Whoever said California politics can’t teach you about the world? Get a full breakdown here of what West, who later canceled the remainder of his tour, was talking about during his lengthy, profanity-laced tirade.

WOMEN’S WOES: Earlier this week, we reported that the number of female legislators next session was projected to fall to its lowest level in nearly three decades. The California State Library has since corrected its data, pointing out that there were the same number of women at the Capitol in the 1997-1998 session, 27, as they expected next year. But in that time, Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang, R-Diamond Bar, has also fallen behind Democrat Josh Newman in the race for the 29th Senate District, where she now trails by 1,396 votes. If that holds, there will be only 26 female lawmakers for 2017-18, which would still be the fewest since 1991-92, when there were 22.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy Thanksgiving to the Capitol community! The AM Alert will be taking a short break for Turkey Day. And happy birthday to Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, D-Marina Del Rey, who turns 43 today, and to Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, who will be 42 on Friday.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff.

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