Clovis News

State brings back public projects

SACRAMENTO -- Strong demand for California bonds will allow the state to spend $2.7 billion on public works projects delayed during the recent state budget impasse, officials said Monday.

In the Valley, several projects are back on track, including:

Improving the Highway 99/Route 145 interchange in Madera County.

Removing arsenic from the water in the Home Garden Community Services District in Kings County.

Fixing construction deficiencies at Exeter Union High School in Tulare County.

Also, the state will spend $2.8 million to keep design work going on a planned veterans home in Fresno, as well as nearly $35 million planning for the multibillion-dollar statewide high-speed rail system that voters agreed to fund last fall.

More than 5,000 projects were delayed or shut down this winter when officials could not sell bonds because of the state budget deficit and tight credit markets.

The situation improved last week when investors purchased $6.5 billion in bonds, exceeding expectations by more than $2 billion. But "it may take a year or so" to sell enough bonds to restart all of the delayed projects, said Department of Finance Director Mike Genest.

For now, the state is targeting projects that will create jobs or improve health and safety, officials said.

"We will ensure this funding is pumped into our economy as quickly as possible," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

The state was able to sell bonds again because lawmakers in late February finally struck a deal to close the $42 billion budget shortfall through June 2010. However, new projections show the state will be in the red again soon if nothing is done.

During the budget impasse, the state had threatened to shut down two major Valley highway projects: the widenings of Mooney Boulevard in Tulare County and Highway 180 in Fresno County between Clovis and Temperance avenues. The work never stopped, however, because a budget deal was reached in time.