SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Democratic lawmakers are proposing to spend about $500 million a year in newly approved tax revenue on energy efficiency projects at schools in California's poorest communities.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento and Sen. Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles announced legislation Tuesday that they say will create jobs and help thousands of schools reduce their energy costs. They held a news conference at a 63-year-old Sacramento elementary school to highlight the need for ventilation and lighting improvements.
Democrats are relying on roughly $2.5 billion over five years in revenue from Proposition 39, which voters overwhelmingly approved last month. The initiative closes a corporate tax loophole and is expected to raise about $1 billion a year overall.
The other half of the money generated by Proposition 39 will go to the state's general fund, which pays for a variety of programs such as schools, health care and social services.
The funding is in addition to Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30, which is expected to bring in an additional $6 billion a year from increases in the state sales and income taxes.
De Leon said his bill, SB 39, best reflects the aim of the California Clean Energy Jobs Act because upgrading California schools would yield the greatest value for the public's investment.
He cited a 2011 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study, which found that students perform better on tests when they have adequate heating and better lighting.
"We will save energy, reduce greenhouse gasses, save school districts money to put back into classroom and just as importantly, create much-needed jobs for Californians," de Leon said as he and the bill's supporters stood beneath a stage filled with dozens of sixth-graders from Mark Twain Elementary School.
California has about 10,000 public schools in nearly 60,000 school buildings to educate its roughly 6 million students. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who is also a Democrat, said 70 percent of those school buildings are more than 25 years old, and a large portion of those are more than 50 years old.