LOS ANGELES — A bill moving through the California Legislature would lower the state’s short-term borrowing costs with the help of a $1.7 billion cushion from its two public university systems.
As it stands, the plan calls for the University of California and California State University to loan the money to a new investment fund in the state treasury, where it would serve to help back up the state’s revenue anticipation note sale slated for this summer.
Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s spokesman, Tom Dresslar, said the $1.7 billion from the universities was already part of the calculation when the treasurer said last month that the new budget would be “financeable,” though the plan wasn’t widely known until Monday, when language to implement it was inserted into a budget trailer bill.
“We believe it will help us when we go to market,” Dresslar said.
SB 79 states that, in addition to the university systems, the California Community Colleges and the Judicial Council would each deposit no less than $500 million into the investment fund for a total not to exceed $10 billion, according to a legislative analysis of the bill.
The bill passed the Assembly Monday and will likely be taken up this week by the Senate.
The current plan, according to Dresslar, so far relies on the universities’ loans.
“The state asked the University of California for help to limit the cost of its cash-flow borrowing needs,” Leslie Sepuka, a spokeswoman for the UC president’s office, said in an e-mail.
“While the exact approach for our investment hasn’t yet been finalized, this is money that will come back to the university, with interest,” she said. “And it would help the state get on sounder financial footing.”
Sepuka said the loan, which would have been invested another way, could help prevent additional cuts beyond the $650 million of reductions already placed on the university by the state in the new budget.
The University of California and California State University would be able to get a better return from the loan, backed by the state’s general fund, than they would from other options for investment, according to the analysis carried out by the Assembly’s staff.
The treasurer is set to sell around $5 billion of Rans this summer to help pay for operations while awaiting tax receipts that come in later in the year. The $1.7 billion would act as coverage for the repayment of the notes.
Dresslar said the plan would be for the loan to be a one-time transaction with the universities withdrawing the money by 2013.
Lockyer said in a letter last month to Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic Party leaders that the budget reduces the need for cash-flow borrowing by as much as $2 billion, setting up a sale of $5 billion of revenue anticipation notes later this summer.
The Legislature’s initial budget vetoed by Brown had projected a $7 billion Ran sale.
Under earlier projections, California had been slated to go to the municipal market this summer with an estimated $10 billion annual note sale that would help balance out tax receipts that come in later in the year.
Lockyer had warned that the state wouldn’t have a market for Rans unless the budget was honestly balanced.
The budget assumes $10.6 million in additional debt-service savings in fiscal 2012, according to the state treasurer’s office.
California so far expects to sell $3.9 billion of general obligation bonds later this year after it chose to skip its traditional spring GO sale.