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Sacramento -- For the first time in more than a decade, California voters would have the opportunity to approve higher education bonds to improve facilities on California State University and University of California campuses under legislation introduced Thursday by joint authors Sens. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, and Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica.
The bill, SB 483, would authorize the statewide sale of $2 billion in general obligation bonds earmarked for higher education facilities at CSU and UC campuses. The bonds would go before voters in the 2018 general election.
“For many generations, California taxpayers have been proud supporters of the greatest higher education system in America,” Glazer said. “Unfortunately, we have allowed classrooms and libraries to deteriorate, affecting our ability to educate our students. Without public support, the burden of financing facilities will be borne by students and their families through higher tuition and fees.
The most recent such bond, which provided $1.6 billion to improve higher education facilities at CSU and UC, was approved by voters in 2006. All those funds have since been depleted. The last higher education-specific bond was passed in 1994.
“California’s public colleges and universities are a source of great pride to our state, but unfortunately we’ve allowed their physical facilities to fall into disrepair,” said Allen, who chairs the Senate Education Committee. “This bond measure will provide a much-needed and overdue investment in our higher education infrastructure.”
According to CSU and UC, the two systems have capital needs of $7 billion and $10 billion, respectively, for short-term and long-term projects. The CSU and UC are able to provide their own funding for some construction programs through system-wide revenue bonds, though only half of their capital needs are met.
“We appreciate Senator Glazer’s work to secure funding for necessary repair and replacement of aging higher education buildings and infrastructure,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White. “More than $2 billion in deferred maintenance – due to lack of investment during the previous recession – left our campuses vulnerable to potential failures of critical systems. Safe and up-to-date classrooms, research labs and work spaces are essential to the success of our students, faculty and staff.”
SB 483 would require universities or colleges to submit five-year capital outlay plans that prioritize seismic retrofitting needed to reduce seismic hazards in buildings identified as high priority.
David Lopez, president of the California State Student Association, said the legislation addresses the issues about needed classroom repairs that students have been talking about for years.
“We keep hearing stories of students in classrooms that need major repair,” Lopez said. “Buildings that need to be closed for safety reasons. Our campus infrastructure needs have never been greater than they are today.”
Spending choices will emerge through recommendations from governing boards for both CSU and UC systems and will be reviewed in public hearings during the legislative process, Glazer said.
“The state has failed to provide the funds needed for public higher education faculty, student services and infrastructure,” said Mel Levine, Co-chair of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education. “We can't take in more California students without restoring and improving our classrooms and labs.”
Last November, voters approved Proposition 51, a $9 billion education facilities bond, but did not include any money for the CSU or UC.
“This measure provides important financial backing for critical upgrades to our libraries and classrooms on college campuses,” Glazer added. “And I believe voters should be given a chance to continue the proud legacy of supporting our universities and colleges.”
A December 2016 survey on higher education by Public Policy Institute of California showed broad support – 65 percent – for higher education construction projects. It represented an 11 percentage point increase in support since December, 2014 and was the highest level of support since PPIC first began asking the question in 2007. http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/survey/S_1216MBS.pdf