SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California lawmakers are already drawing up plans for spending revenue generated from wealth tied to selling shares in Facebook, which took its first step toward its highly anticipated initial public offering on Wednesday.
Republicans in California’s Democrat-led legislature see the potential for a windfall for the state from Facebook’s initial public offering and would spend the money on schools and paying down the state’s debt, two of their leaders said on Wednesday.
The proposal by Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff and Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway reflects the keen interest in the Democrat-led legislature in revenue the Silicon Valley-based social network giant’s shareholders could generate to help bring stability to California’s finances.
At the same time, their proposal offers the legislature’s Republican minority a way to counter Governor Jerry Brown’s threat that politically popular education spending could be cut more if voters do not approve a measure he aims to put on the November ballot urging temporary tax increases.
The Democratic governor would use revenue from increasing the state’s sales tax and income taxes on wealthy Californians, which Republicans oppose, to help balance the state’s books. His budget plan also calls for spending cuts to social and health services.
The most populous U.S. state’s government faces a $9.2 billion deficit, according to the budget plan unveiled last month by Brown. Facebook filed on Wednesday to raise a targeted $5 billion in its initial public offering.
“We should use this added revenue to protect our public school students from the Governor’s trigger cuts and pay down the state’s debt service,” a joint statement by Huff and Conway said.
The two Republicans assume revenue generated by Facebook’s market debut, expected in the middle of the year, will be available after the “lock-up” period on the company’s shares ends at some point in the state’s next fiscal year, which begins on July 1.
By contrast, the revenue is not included in revenue forecasts by Brown’s administration.
It’s not clear when the state would realize the revenue, said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state finance department.
“We don’t know the time period over which stock sales related to the IPO will be spread out,” Palmer said.
Revenue linked to the 2004 initial public offering by California-based Google Inc flowed into state coffers well into 2006.
A report by California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office, a budget watchdog agency, last month said revenue forecasts would need to be revised in coming months to take into account tax collections from potential initial public offerings this year.
“Facebook-related capital gains likely will prove to be a relatively small percentage of California’s overall capital gains in 2012,” the report said.
“If the stock market as a whole has an unusually strong or weak year, that fact could change forecasted capital gains up or down by much more than the positive Facebook effect,” the report said.
Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg is expected to sell an undisclosed number of shares during the IPO to satisfy taxes, according the company’s filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Reporting By Jim Christie; editing by Carol Bishopric