Voters may get to decide for the first time in more than a decade whether to approve higher education bonds for California's public universities under a bill co-authored by local State Senator Steve Glazer that is currently weaving its way through the State Legislature in Sacramento.
Authored by Glazer (D-Orinda) and State Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), Senate Bill 14 is headed to the Assembly after passing in the Senate on a 33-4 vote on May 22.
The bill would authorize $8 billion in sales of general obligation bonds for improving classrooms, libraries and lab rooms at University of California and California State University campuses throughout the state, if endorsed by voters statewide. The bond measure would appear on the ballot for the March 2020 primary election.
"This measure provides important financial backing for critical upgrades to our libraries and classrooms on college campuses," Glazer, whose district includes the Tri-Valley, said in a statement. "I believe voters should be given a chance to continue the proud legacy of supporting our universities and colleges."
Previous generations have "gained the benefits of the education" at both institutions, but Glazer said that "unfortunately, we have allowed classrooms, labs 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," he added.
The last time voters passed a bond to improve and repair UC and CSU facilities was in 2006; that bond provided $1.6 billion in funding but has since dried up. Short- and long-term projects have put the capital needs of both systems at a combined total of more than $16 billion. It has been a quarter-century since the last bond specifically targeting higher education passed in 1994.
Colleges and universities would be required to prioritize earthquake safety in mandatory five-year capital outlay plans and have buildings identified as high priority undergo seismic retrofitting, if the bill reaches the governor's desk.
The CSU and UC governing boards would make recommendations on project spending through public hearings, according to Glazer.