SAN FRANCISCO — California needs an injection of $3.3 billion before March to avoid running out of cash, according to state officials.
State Controller John Chiang said in a letter to lawmakers today that the government will run out of cash for seven weeks starting in Feb. 29 unless the legislature adopts short-term measures to buffer its cash flow.
The state will likely borrow money by selling short-term notes or by seeking a bridge loan to close part of the cash gap, according to the state treasurer’s office.
“I believe the upcoming shortfall can be effectively managed without resorting to IOUs, tax refund delays, and other drastic measures,” Chiang said. “More cash solutions may be required if our revenues continue to erode or if disbursements significantly exceed estimates.”
The shortfall, according to Chiang, is mainly due to a combined gap between revenues and spending estimates of $5.2 billion since the start of the year.
The controller’s letter was sent in support of Senate Bill 95 that passed out of the Assembly Budget Committee on Tuesday. It would corral $865 million from several sources to ramp up the state’s cash flow.
The controller’s office, the Department of Finance and Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s office have created a blueprint to handle the cash shortfall by delaying payments, external borrowing and using funds authorized through the proposed bill.
Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for Lockyer, said the external borrowing would include an interim revenue anticipation note sale or bridge loan. He said it is too early to know the timing or the size of the borrowing.
Chiang said limiting the size of the state’s revenue anticipation note sale in the fall to “a level unseen since 2006, in an attempt to lower borrowing costs by tens of millions of dollars” has contributed to the cash flow gap.
In September, the state sold $5.4 billion of the notes to pay off a bridge loan of the same amount it received from eight banks. The treasurer did the loan in an effort to avoid potential chaos resulting from the debt ceiling stalemate in Washington.
In 2010, California took a $6.7 billion bridge loan to give the state time to prepare a public Ran sale after the state budget was adopted 100 days into the fiscal year. The state repaid the loan from six financial institutions after it sold $10 billion of notes that fall.
Chiang issued $2 billion of IOUs in 2009 to lower-priority creditors to preserve cash for creditors with higher legal standing, such as bondholders. The IOUs were ultimately redeemed.