Politics

California's infrastructure left out of Gov. Jerry Brown's budget

California officials acknowledge the state's infrastructure could use a $66 billion upgrade but Gov. Jerry Brown's budget for fiscal year 2015-16 doesn't offer any relief.
California officials acknowledge the state's infrastructure could use a $66 billion upgrade but Gov. Jerry Brown's budget for fiscal year 2015-16 doesn't offer any relief.
File photo by Andrew Nixon/ Capital Public Radio

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Gov. Jerry Brown acknowledges California's crumbling roads, highways and bridges are a multi-billion dollar problem - but his newly released budget won't provide much relief.

His spending plan allocates $478 million for maintenance on the state's universities, parks, prisons and hospitals, a tiny fraction of the $66 billion the state needs to spend to catch up with deferred maintenance, according to the state Department of Finance.

"We do have a need and we’re going to have to take care of it," Brown said during a morning news conference to release his $113 billion budget proposal. But he acknowledged he's not tackling the state's deep infrastructure needs in this budget. 

"I have a team working on infrastructure," he said, "and we’re going to start engaging the constituency groups, including Republican leaders, and we’re going to try to find what avenues of funding might be available."

A report by the Department of Finance said a failure to properly fund maintenance and repair leaves agencies to do the minimum - and that can lead to big problems down the line.

"Deferring routine maintenance can lead to facility deterioration—and ultimately failure—and sometimes the need to replace the facility sooner than otherwise would have been required if  properly maintained," according to the Department of Finance's five-year infrastructure plan.

Tough budget cycles have increased the state's reliance on debt to finance major projects. Between 1974 and 1999, California issued $38.4 billion in bonds. That figure exploded to $103.2 billion in the past 15 years. Many of those more recent bonds were for education, housing and water quality. 

At this point, $1 out of every $2 spent on an infrastructure project goes toward paying down the bonds' interest rather than repairing the actual problem, according to the Department of Finance. 

Here's how the state's $66 billion repair bill breaks down:

The Legislature will review the budget and must pass a bill by June 15. The new budget would go into effect July 1.