Politics & Government

Governor signs housing bill at Fresno stop

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday signed legislation in Fresno that will extend and enlarge a popular program that gives tax credits to first-time homebuyers.

The governor used the same housing development as his backdrop as he did in January, when he came to Fresno to tout the proposal. Now, it is law.

"It's so rare that both of the [major political] parties come together," Schwarzenegger said before signing the legislation. "I'm very happy about this particular bill."

The legislation -- co-sponsored by Assembly Member Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, and state Sen. Roy Ashburn, R-Bakersfield, both of whom were present -- will provide a tax credit of up to $10,000 to Californians who buy their first home or purchase a new home.

Last year, the state offered a tax credit of up to $10,000 for buyers of new, unoccupied houses in California. By July, the $100 million allocated had been exhausted. This year, Schwarzenegger proposed $200 million in his budget for the program and proposed extending it to the purchases of existing homes.

He touted the proposal in his final State of the State address this year, proposing it as part of a jobs package that includes subsidized training programs and tax breaks for green-tech industries.

Thursday's bill signing -- which took place on a desk set up in the middle of a cul-de-sac in the La Ventana housing development near Bullard and Grantland avenues -- came a day after Schwarzenegger signed another piece of legislation associated with his jobs package.

That bill will allow companies that buy green-technology manufacturing equipment to avoid sales tax on those purchases for 10 years.

John Young, chairman of the California Building Industry Association, praised the legislation in comments made during Thursday's event.

"I get to go back to work and hire people," he said. Young said the new law will "get buyers off the fence" and buying homes.

The Fresno-Clovis market was among the top areas of the state that took advantage of the tax credit last year.

The governor is expected to sign the bill in a ceremony this afternoon at Granville Homes' La Ventana Development, near Bullard Avenue just west of Highway 99.