February 24, 2006

Assembly Democrats Focus On Education In Bond Package

Speaker Proposes Infrastructure Improvements to Upgrade Schools, Public Transit, Housing, Flood Control and Hospitals

SACRAMENTO – Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, in response to Governor Schwarzenegger’s $68 billion dollar bond proposal, detailed a bond proposal of approximately $30 billion that focuses on building and modernizing the state’s public schools and community colleges. The Assembly Democratic plan, designed to be spread over two election cycles, also includes proposals to improve the state’s mass transit and highway systems, levees, air quality, and protect the state’s hospitals from earthquake damage.

“California has twin infrastructure challenges: our physical infrastructure and our human infrastructure,” Speaker Núñez said. “We should not invest in one without investing in the other. That’s why our proposal is designed to rebuild what has made California’s economy strong in the first place – world-class public schools, community colleges, and universities – while also addressing our state’s other critical needs.”

The Assembly Democratic plan features:

• Approximately $2.7 billion for the construction of new schools;

• $2.7 billion for refurbishing existing schools;

• $1.1 billion for charter schools, seismic safety, and career technology facilities;

• $1.5 billion into community colleges; and

• $1.4 billion each for UC and CSU.

“When you go into a school, you shouldn’t feel nostalgic, you should feel like you are stepping into the future,” the Speaker said. “California’s next generation will not be able to compete if they are still sitting in trailers with textbooks that say Richard Nixon is President. That’s why it’s critical we put our kids first in any strategic plan for our state’s future.”

Núñez said that the Assembly Democratic proposal has much in common with plans submitted by the Governor as well as the State Senate. However, the Assembly Democratic proposal has higher levels of funding for education, air quality improvements, seismic retrofits for non-profit hospitals, and housing than the Governor’s plan.

The transportation component of the Assembly Democratic plan has significantly higher levels of funding for public transit (more than $3 billion). It stresses reducing congestion through enhanced transportation safety and access, reduction of air pollution, and better mobility, rather than just the construction of roads in suburban areas. It also includes paying off Proposition 42 loans.

The water and natural resources component of the bond package includes additional funds for flood control, regional water management and water quality, including safe drinking water and wastewater treatment. Another part of the bond targets the backlog of maintenance projects in state parks, habitat preservation, and urban parks.

The Assembly Democratic plan addresses housing by “filling the buckets” of existing affordable housing programs. These include first-time home ownership funds, farm worker housing, and transitional housing. The funding commitment is higher than the Senate’s proposal; the Governor did not include any funding for affordable housing.

Also included is a modest investment in seismic retrofitting of non-profit hospitals that serve the poor.

  In addition, the bond package is limited to two election cycles. It does not include funds for jails, water storage facilities, or courts.

“Super-sizing bond proposals doesn’t make them better,” said Speaker Núñez, noting that the Assembly Democratic plan would result in annual debt payments that are less than half of the Governor’s $4.4 billion. “To get the biggest bang for our buck, it’s fiscally prudent to address our greatest needs while also striving to erase our structural deficit. Too many things can change in the next decade to commit ourselves to massive spending through 2014.” 

Núñez said that he is committed to working with the Governor, State Senate, and Assembly Republicans to put a proposal on the June ballot. “It’s a tall order, but where there’s the political will, there’s a way.”

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