California Voters Sour on New Bonding Measures, Poll Shows

(Bloomberg) -- Nearly two-thirds of likely California voters say it’s not a good time to take on more debt for state programs and infrastructure projects as legislators consider placing several bond measures on the November ballot, according to a poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California.

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A statewide survey of likely voters released Thursday by the PPIC showed 64% were against issuing new bonds at this time. Leaders in Sacramento must choose which bond proposals they support ahead of the June 27 deadline to qualify for the ballot.

The poll comes as California grapples with one of its biggest budget deficits in years. Faulty revenue projections left the state with less cash on hand, making it harder for lawmakers to use pay-as-you-go financing to fund new projects and programs. Consequently, Democrats who control the statehouse are seeking approval to sell tens of billions of dollars of debt to advance their policy goals.

The question facing Newsom and Democrats is whether voters can stomach that much borrowing. The second-term governor said in May the tight-race he experienced in March when his $6.4 billion Proposition 1 bond for mental health facilities barely passed with a simple majority has “sobered” conversations about voters’ willingness to support borrowing measures.

Assembly Budget Committee Chair Jesse Gabriel, a Democrat, said segments of his caucus have been vocal about bonds for education, climate change and housing.

“All three of those issues are really important to me,” Gabriel said in an interview. “What I have asked people to do is just grapple with the trade offs and to not think that bonds are free money, just something out there we can use as a magic wand to solve our problems, because they require payments in the future, they foreclose options in the future.”

The state Senate and Assembly have already passed competing measures that would seek voter approval in November to sell bonds for climate programs. Both call for the issuance of roughly $15 billion of bonds but legislators are working to combine them into one measure.

Democratic lawmakers introduced a $10 billion bond measure earlier this year which would raise money for a handful of state housing programs, including those funding rental and supportive developments, home loans and farmworker and tribal housing. Additionally, legislators are considering two separate bills, each of which ask voters to approve the sale of more than $14 billion of debt to fund modernization projects at K-12 schools and higher education institutions across the state.

The survey of 1,677 California adult residents conducted between May 23 and June 2 has a 3.1% margin of era.

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