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finance & labor
INFRASTRUCTURE
Gov. Schwarzenegger Unveils
$43.3-B Construction Program
 
By Tony Illia
Calif. Office of the Governor
Schwarzenegger

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) unveiled an ambitious new $43.3-billion public works program on Jan. 9 during his State of the State speech outlining the need for more school, university, prison and courthouse construction projects, as well as levees and dams. Schwarzenegger will first need a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to get his proposal on the ballot and before voters, which could happen by 2008.

The plan calls for a new round of construction bonds over three years to prepare the state for an anticipated 30% population boom over the next two decades. The spending follows $42.6-billion in construction bonds approved by voters in November. The governor's $143.4-billion budget for fiscal year 2007-08 would limit general fund spending increases to less than 1%, the smallest raise in five years, while eliminating debt and clearing the way for more construction borrowing.

Yet Schwarzenegger’s budget counts on more than $500-million in Indian gaming revenue, which still depends on Legislature approval of nine pending compacts, and redirects $1.1-billion in gas sales taxes. Transportation officials, however, are vowing to fight to keep the monies. About $1.68-billion of gas tax money has been diverted to other state programs since 2000, says the Transit Coalition, a Sylmar-based nonprofit organization. And the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority estimates the budget would cost it $260-million, or about 8% of its annual transit budget.

The governor’s newest plan adds 15,000 classrooms and renovates 40,000 more. It additionally spends $10.9-billion for 78,000 more prison beds to relieve severe overcrowding and spends $4 billion for reservoirs in northern and central California. Prisons and water storage were both excluded from the November bonds.

California will lose 25% of its Sierra snowpack by 2050 as a result of global warming resulting in flood and water supply issues, according to the state Dept. of Water Resources. The governor’s plan would build a 1.8-million-acre-ft. reservoir in Sites, 77 miles north of Sacramento, flooding 14,000 acres of ranch country. It would be serviced by existing irrigation canals or a possible new $1-billion pipeline, and located 16 miles west of the Sacramento River to lessen environmental damage. A second 1.3-million-acre-ft. reservoir, called Temperance Flat, would be built on the San Joaquin River east of Fresno, just upstream from the existing Friant Dam and Millerton Lake. There would additionally be $1-billion for new deltas, with $500,000 for groundwater storage projects.

"We are a big state and we have big needs,” said Schwarzenegger. “And we made a big down payment. But the job is not finished."

 


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