Bond Stiffs Courts, But George Hangs Tough

Lawmakers may have officially iced the courts out of a $37 billion bond deal sealed early Friday, but fear not, says Chief Justice Ronald George. Plans are in the works to find the billions needed to rehab California’s courthouses.

“We haven’t given up,” George said Friday afternoon. “I’m not discouraged.”

Court leaders may offer their own bonds. Or a hike in filing fees. Or “something else,” George said.

A separate bond issue seems like a dicey proposal. A Field Poll showed minimal public support for courthouses fixes. And if voters approve the bond measures OK’d by legislators on Friday, the annual debt service for all of California’s outstanding notes could reach a whopping $7.5 billion in the next decade. Expect fiscal conservatives to turn blue with budgetary horror if the courts try to increase that yearly price tag.

If George is fazed, it doesn’t show. Trial court unification took a few tries before it happened, he said. So why should finding money for courthouse construction be any easier?

“The public has a definite need for safe and secure courthouses,” he said, “which we will pursue.”

Cheryl Miller

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