The California Reading and Literacy Improvement and Public Library Construction and Renovation Bond Act of 2006 would provide $600 million for public library construction and repair. This is the largest library construction bond measure in state history. The act enjoyed bi-partisan support and easily passed in both the Senate and Assembly and was signed by Governor Schwarzenegger in September 2005. It will appear on the June 6, 2006 ballot.
The operations of public libraries are usually paid for by cities, counties and special districts. The state and federal government also pay a portion of library operations costs. Studies have found that California's public libraries are in need of repair and require millions of dollars to renovate and rebuild. In addition, the rise in the California population requires expansion of library facilities to accommodate new patrons. In recent years, legislation and ballot propositions have been proposed to fund state library infrastructure. The 1990's saw decreases in library funding as counties cut programs in response to lower-than expected property tax revenues. Counties also experienced the elimination of special district funds which many libraries depended upon. In 2000, Proposition 14 was certified for the March primary. Prop. 14, or the Library Bond Act of 2000 was originally introduced in the 1999/00 legislative session as SB 3 in response to state library surveys which found that libraries were in need of $2 billion to fund construction, maintenance and literacy programs. SB 3 passed both houses and went on to become Prop. 14. Prop. 14 authorized $350 million in bonds to pay for renovation and literacy programs at public libraries which would individually apply for the program money. The bond money would pay 65 percent of each library's cost. Libraries and local governments and school districts would pay the rest. The Office of Library Construction (OLC) was created to administer Proposition 14, the Library Bond Act of 2000. Operational costs would still fall to local governments. Prop. 14 proved popular with voters, passing 59% to 41%. The last time a library bond act was issued was 1988's Prop. 85, which authorized $75 million and funded the repair and expansion of 24 public libraries.
Proposition 14 funded $273 million of its $300 million price tag and 45 projects have been undertaken since 2000, according to the Office of Library Construction. However, libraries are still in need of more than $4 billion for construction or renovation by 2011, according to a State Library survey. SB 1161 was introduced by Senator Dede Alpert (Dem - District 39) on February 2, 2004. SB 1161, or the California Reading and Literacy Improvement and Public Library Construction and Renovation Bond Act of 2006, received support from both Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature, easily passing the Senate, 28-9, and the Assembly, 57-15. The measure was signed in September 2005 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and will now appear on the June 2006 primary ballot as Proposition 81. If approved it will provide $600 million for public library construction and renovation. $300 million would go for renovations and expansions and the remaining $300 million could be used for new equipment and other in house needs. Prop. 81 will provide "first call" funding for unfunded third cycle applications unattended by Prop. 14. Remaining funds would be available to new applicants. The bill also requires that all grant recipients must provide matching funds in an amount equal to 35% of the project cost. The bill also provides up to $25 million to foster the development of joint projects between libraries and school districts.
The bill would provide a bond issue of $600 million of state general obligation bond funds. General obligation bonds must be approved by the voters and are usually paid for by the general fund. The bonds are guaranteed by the "state's general taxing power". For a detailed description of general obligation bonds, see A Primer: The State's Infrastructure and the Use of Bonds. Sacramento: Legislative Analyst's Office, January 2006.
Arguments For and Against
The proponents of Prop. 81 are members of the library community, education advocates and many elected officials. They believe that libraries are community centers and expose citizens to important new ideas and technology that they will need in the future. Their argument for the bill is that the state's libraries are in serious trouble and in need of massive renovation and expansion. While Prop. 14 was a step in the right direction, advocates believe there is much more to do. They cite a 2003 study by the California State Library which found that libraries still need $4 billion in funds. Proponents believe that the use of general obligation bonds is necessary and the best way to pay for the new program.
Opponents of Prop. 81 are members of business community and some lawmakers. They believe that investments in the library infrastructure should be made from funds in the budget, not from additional money raised by bonds. Critics claim that California government has spent too much money on illegal aliens and other special interests and have deprived libraries and other services from much needed funds. They say that voting yes on Prop. 81 would legitimize lawmakers decisions on spending. Opponents also point to the state's bond debt which they say is too high to approve additional bond measures.
California Reading and Literacy Improvement and Public Library Construction and Renovation Bond Act of 2006
Analysis by California Legislative Analyst, Feb. 16, 2006.