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California Faces Challenges To Repairing Infrastructure

Andrew Nixon, Capital Public Radio
 

Andrew Nixon, Capital Public Radio

Governor Jerry Brown estimates the state is facing nearly $60 billion in infrastructure maintenance.

Bonds sales could finance some repairs. But Sacramento State Political Scientist Steve Boilard says the state can only carry so much debt.

"There is no magic number on how much, but obviously the more you carry the more you commit to the future," he says. "And given that Jerry Brown has talked so much about the wall of debt and taking care of our current obligations, I don’t think you could do a lot of additional bond sales."

In 2006 California voters approved about $40 billion in bonds to address infrastructure deficiencies. About $5 billion of that hasn’t been spent. Brown’s Department of Finance says about $1 billion will be included in this year’s budget.     

And while Boilard says it may be politically and finically difficult to pass more bonds, he says Brown’s decision to address the problem makes sense.  

"I think it’s an unavoidable issue that the state really has not invested in its infrastructure. There’s plenty of stories about deterioration of infrastructure," he says.  "And throughout the budget crisis we really diverted a lot of money away from maintenance. So I think it’s a very reasonable call of his."

Boilard says improvements may also be paid for using public-private partnerships or a pay-as-you-go approach.