Your guide to Proposition 4: California Climate bond

earth surrounded by red fire
(Los Angeles Times)

The Safe Drinking Water, Wildfire Prevention, Drought Preparedness, and Clean Air Bond Act of 2024 would have the state borrow $10 billion to pay for climate and environmental projects — including some that were axed from the budget because of an unprecedented deficit.

California taxpayers would pay the bond back with interest. A legislative analyst estimated it would cost the state $650 million a year for the next 30 years or more than $19 billion.

What will the measure do?

According to the 49-page proposal, $3.8 billion would be allocated to water projects, including those that provide for safe drinking water, recycle wastewater, store groundwater and control flooding. An additional $1.5 billion would be spent on wildfire protection, while $1.2 billion would go toward protecting the coast from sea level rise.

Other money would be used to create parks, protect wildlife and habitats, fight air pollution, address extreme heat events and fund sustainable agriculture.

The language requires that at least 40% of the money go to projects that aid disadvantaged communities, defined as those where the median household income is less than 80% of the area average.

Hundreds of millions of dollars from the bond would benefit private industry. For example, it would provide $850 million to clean energy projects, including proposed offshore wind farms.

Who are the supporters?

Dozens of environmental groups, labor unions, social justice organizations, water agencies, renewable energy companies and the water recycling industry have been lobbying for the proposal.

Who are the opponents?

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. estimates that by issuing bonds to pay for the environmental projects, their cost could more than double because of the added interest expense. The association said it would be more fiscally responsible to fund the projects without taking on debt.

“These bonds will be paid by people decades from now that didn’t even get to vote for their authorization,” the association wrote.

Why is this on the ballot?

The push for the measure intensified after Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed spending $54 billion on climate efforts in 2022 but then cut that funding amid a massive budget shortfall.

What else should I know?

Governments often take out long-term debt to pay for infrastructure projects that are expensive to build but will last for decades. Much of the planned climate bond spending would be on infrastructure, but some would go to operate programs that could long be over by the time the bonds are paid off. For instance, a portion will go toward the training of workers. And up to 7% of the money, or $700 million, can go to administration costs.

Past coverage

Read more: $10-billion climate bond will go before voters in November

Read more: Amid budget shortfall, lobbyists push for multibillion-dollar climate bond

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.