SAN FRANCISCO — California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger backed off on a blanket threat to veto more than 700 bills if he didn’t get a water infrastructure deal, taking action on all of them Sunday, his deadline to act on bills the Legislature approved in its 2009 regular session.
He signed 478 bills, according to published reports, including several relating to public finance.
The governor signed every bill on its desk supported by the state treasurer’s office, according to spokesman Tom Dresslar.
They included what Dresslar called Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s “big three” bills: conduit issuer reform, creation of a new transportation financing agency, and regulating placement agents at the state’s public pension funds.
A new California Transportation Financing Authority will be run from of the treasurer’s office under one of the bills, which gives local transportation agencies greater autonomy in deciding how to fund projects, whether or not they actually use the new authority to issue their debt.
“It takes the debate over whether or not to have a toll road out of the Legislature, which is not a particularly constructive place to have the debate,” Lockyer said earlier this month at an event in Los Angeles.
The conduit-financing reform bill will impose more disclosure requirements on so-called joint powers authorities, such as the California Statewide Communities Development Authority, that serve as conduit bond issuers, often in competition with conduit authorities that are run out of the treasurer’s office.
“It will set in statute some much-needed good government reforms at the JPA conduit finance agencies,” Dresslar said.
Schwarzenegger had threatened to veto every single bill unless lawmakers came to an agreement on a comprehensive water infrastructure package by Sunday.
They didn’t meet the deadline, but it was close enough, the governor said.
“Over the past few days we have made enough progress in our negotiations that I am calling a special session on water,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “While we still have a few remaining issues to work out, I commend the legislative leaders for their focus and commitment to solving this crisis and I will weigh all the bills on their merits.”
Water negotiation topics include a general obligation bond issue in the $10 billion range, according to published reports.
Schwarzenegger Sunday signed a bill allowing local governments to sell their GO bonds through negotiation.
For the second year in a row, he vetoed a bill to permit general-law cities use of community facilities district debt, known as Mello-Roos bonds, as a tool for property owners to finance solar panel installations or other renewable energy work.
“This bill would represent a fundamental shift in the purpose of Mello-Roos taxes, which are intended to finance core infrastructure needs such as roadways, sewers, and street lighting,” the governor said in a veto statement. “This is a shift that I cannot support.”
Despite the progress, lawmakers’ work isn’t done. The Senate is scheduled to convene tomorrow to consider a series of bills that were held up before the September adjournment because of a squabble between Republicans and Democrats.
The bills were urgency measures that require two-thirds approval votes, and therefore the cooperation of at least some Republicans.
Those bills include one to make it possible for the CSCDA to conduct a transaction securitizing repayment of up to $1.9 billion in loans the state took from local governments to balance the budget.
The bill is needed to allow the transaction to take place before the end of this calendar year, which will allow it to meet working capital requirements under federal tax laws and thus qualify for tax-exempt status, according to supporters.
The Senate also held up one of Lockyer’s bills, to temporarily increase the permitted limit for liquidity fees on state GO bonds to 3% from 2%, which the treasurer’s office says it needs to replace expiring liquidity provisions in the current tight liquidity market.