Capitol Alert

$9 billion school bond clears signature threshold for November 2016 ballot

In this 2012 file photo, South Tahoe High School received millions of voter-approved bond dollars to build new classrooms and purchase equipment. School-construction groups have collected enough signatures to place a $9 billion bond on the November 2016 ballot.
In this 2012 file photo, South Tahoe High School received millions of voter-approved bond dollars to build new classrooms and purchase equipment. School-construction groups have collected enough signatures to place a $9 billion bond on the November 2016 ballot. lsterling@sacbee.com

Proponents of a $9 billion school-construction bond have turned in enough valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot, Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced Friday. The school borrowing measure would be the first since 2006.

“This bond will go a long way to ensure school districts have the necessary resources to create the best learning environments for students,” Eileen Reynolds of the California Building Industry Association, one of the groups backing the measure, said in a statement.

Voters have approved about $45 billion in K-12 and higher education borrowing since 1998. All of the measures – totaling $9.3 billion in 1998, $13.05 billion in 2002, $12.3 billion in 2004 and $10.4 billion in 2006 – were placed on the ballot by the Legislature. The pot of bond money is almost tapped out, and the state faces an estimated $20 billion backlog of applications.

Californians for Quality Schools, the bond measure campaign committee, has reported almost $1.7 million in contributions since January.

Lawmakers tried to put a school bond on last November’s ballot during the final days of the 2014 legislative session. The effort fizzled as the Brown administration made clear that it opposed the legislation.

“I think the locals can do it more efficiently,” Gov. Jerry Brown said in January as he released a proposed budget that included a minimal state role in school construction.

The building industry association and the Coalition for Adequate School Housing bankrolled efforts to collect the 365,880 signatures to put the bond on the ballot. Organizers can withdraw the initiative up until June 30, 2016 – allowing time for possible negotiations with the Legislature and Brown on a substitute.

The bond could be one of two big-dollar measures backed by school groups put before voters next fall. Earlier this week, the California Teachers Association, other education labor groups, and health care and police unions filed a proposed initiative seeking to extend some of the temporary taxes approved by voters in 2012.

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