New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine yesterday signed into law $3.9 billion of borrowing to support school construction throughout the state.

Of the large borrowing plan, $2.9 billion will go towards 31 special districts know as Abbott districts, which will help the state meet a court mandate to provide funds for school infrastructure projects in those areas. The state's Schools Development Authority oversees building development in Abbott districts while the New Jersey Economic Development Authority issues school construction bonds on behalf of the SDA.

The remaining $1 billion will support capital projects in other school districts, including $50 million for county vocational school district projects.

"Today, we fulfill an important obligation to our children by making a down payment on the future of their education," Corzine said in a press release. "Every student deserves to attend school in a safe and healthy building. This legislation recognizes that there are needs in both the SDA districts and in the suburban and rural districts."

The state does not have immediate plans to sell the debt. New Jersey Treasury spokesman Tom Vincz said officials are still working on bond deals totalling $1.2 billion from the state's previous $8.6 billion school bond authorization, with the next school bond sale set to price in the winter or spring of 2009. Yet the entire $8.6 billion has already been designated to specific projects while the new $3.9 billion bond bill will address deferred projects and other needed school construction plans that currently do not have funding.

This could be the state's last bonding initiative that does not require a referendum. In November, voters will weigh in on whether to amend New Jersey's constitution and require all state-appropriated debt, including bonds sold via state authorities, to gain voter approval before heading to market.

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