Tag Archives: bond

Californians Want Permanent Budget Solutions – Not A Roll of the Dice

Given all the buildup that came before Arnold Schwarzenegger’s May Revise, it may seem surprising that we have heard relatively little about the budget from the state’s media and politicians over the last few weeks. The June primary is partly responsible for this, as Sacramento’s attention is on the various primary contests in legislative districts around the state.

But an even bigger factor is that there does not actually seem to be any budget solution being actively discussed, and certainly none that would realistically solve the budget deficit. Arnold’s May Revise used as its cornerstone a questionable lottery borrowing plan, but as Evan Halper explains in today’s LA Times it is becoming difficult to take the plan seriously:

Californians find the governor’s lottery strategy so distasteful, a recent state poll suggests, that they would rather have their taxes raised. Meanwhile, lawmakers are denouncing the plan as a gimmick, and analysts say it could prove far costlier to the state than Schwarzenegger is letting on.

Voters would have to approve the governor’s proposal. But Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, said they meant it when they approved the lottery by ballot measure two decades ago to raise funds solely for schools.

“They don’t see it as money to move around and use for other purposes,” he said.

Administration officials are adamant that schools, the beneficiary of the lottery, would not lose money. Still, the institute released a poll Wednesday showing that only 30% of likely voters support the lottery borrowing (with 8% undecided), while 57% back the 1-cent sales tax increase that Schwarzenegger is grudgingly proposing as a backup if the lottery plan falters.

Although it’s not clear to me whether the 1-cent sales tax increase requires a 2/3 vote, Democrats should take note of that poll result. 57% is a pretty clear majority of Californians, suggesting that concerns voters won’t support higher taxes are overblown at best.

Halper wants to argue this is a sign that voters love their lottery, but the stats suggest otherwise:

California’s lottery is one of the more outdated in the country. And last month lottery officials reported that sales were $275 million below projections for the fiscal year ending this month.

So I don’t think it’s that voters have a strong connection to the lottery. What this instead suggests to me is that voters can see right through gimmicky proposals to provide yet another short-term budget fix, and are instead demanding long-term, permanent solutions.

Combine the lottery bonds’ low poll numbers, the dim prospects that the lottery would ever attain the sales levels necessary for the bond plan to succeed (as the article notes, lotteries need video terminals to achieve high sales figured and the tribal casinos would surely never let that happen), and the lack of enthusiasm around Sacramento for the plan and it seems that Arnold’s budget is DOA.

Unfortunately nobody has yet stepped up in Sacramento to offer an alternative plan. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration is a clear failure, but that doesn’t absolve Democrats of their responsibility to provide a coherent alternative. Californians are seeking real solutions, permanent budget fixes that will solve the structural revenue shortfall, protect core services, and position California for success in the 21st century economy. If we don’t solve this now, this state is going to fall permanently behind the rest of the globe, and more and more Californians are beginning to grasp this.

Now would be a good time for Democrats to step up and offer a coherent, long-term budget solution. Propose it before July 1 and start mobilizing public support for it as soon as possible. We know that Republicans will maintain a ridiculous “no new taxes” stance, but that seems to be politically untenable in this climate and is setting them up for big losses in the 2008 elections. Californians deserve a clear choice, and they deserve a budget that is sound, stable, and structurally secure.

Robbing Peter to Build for Paul: Rural/Urban Divide over Bond Money

As noted here a few days back, the California Transportation Commission voted earlier this week to  allocate billions more from the recent highway bond to urban projects, including the widening of the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass.

Unfortunately, to do this, the CTC robbed the rural Peter to pay for the urban Paul’s freeway widening, and the folks in Mendocino, San Luis Obispo, and Fontana are *pissed*. Mendocino, which lost funding for the Willits bypass on Highway 101, had this to say, from the Ukiah Daily Record:

“This is clearly a blatant display of power politics disguised as a competitive process. There’s not any other way of saying it,” Dow said, adding that the nine governor-appointed commissioners, not one of whom lives north of the Golden Gate Bridge, acted as if their function was “to bring home the bacon to whatever community they came from,” rather than address the entire state’s needs.

As elfling pointed out last week here at Calitics:

I lived in Los Angeles for most of my life. The traffic in Willits easily compares to the worst of LA. At some times of day the town is in total gridlock. It’s a safety issue, since there are no alternate routes, and logging trucks and semis compete with people driving to Safeway or ambulances trying to get to the hospital.

If you are driving between San Francisco and Eureka, I suggest allocating 30 minutes to travel the 5 miles through Greater Willits.

Steve Lopez, at the LA Times’ Bottleneck Blog, also describes how Fontana feels the shaft:

Said S.B. supervisor Josie Gonzales: “I think it’s definitely a sign of big government versus small government. As the Inland Empire is becoming a force, we are competing one on one with Los Angeles for the same funds. We are a metropolis in the making, and we are trying not to experience the same problems as Los Angeles.”

Who else lost out? Lopez again tallies the casualties:

San Luis Obispo County watched in vain as $58 million to widen a bridge on Highway 101 across the Santa Maria River evaporated.

This bridge is OLD, and narrow, and a bottleneck between Santa Maria, one of the state’s fastest growing cities, and San Luis Obispo’s South County, cities like Nipomo and Arroyo Grande.

A recommendation that Imperial County get $29 million to build a freeway bypass in Brawley was rejected.

Imperial County, one of the state’s poorest, as well as its most heavily Latino, could have used this as a way to spur economic development and to better connect the El Centro-Calexico-Mexicali region north to the Coachella Valley.

Now I’m not saying that the urban areas couldn’t use the money, or that freeways are the best method of rural transportation (although as elfling notes, the Willits bottleneck IS a huge safety problem as well as an inconvenience). But it does seem unfortunate that urban areas won out over deserving rural projects.

I don’t believe the answer is for us to get involved in a fundamentally neoliberal argument of trying to determine who wins and who loses. We need to find ways to rebuild our infrastructure that don’t force urban and rural areas to fight it out.

Further, this suggests to me that the state and the metro areas need to work more closely on crafting solutions for moving people that don’t rely on freeways. You can only widen the 405 or the 101 so much, before you have a freeway too wide to be functional (and nevermind the inevitable homeowner revolts such a project would cause).

It doesn’t have to look like a dream map of SoCal mass transit – although that’d be nice – but to avoid these unfortunate fights, either we “grow the pie” or we find other ways to move people.

Of course, in the end, it comes back to things out of the control of cities and metro areas. The state needs to sort out its financial priorities, and with a federal government wasting nearly $500 billion on stupid wars, money that could otherwise have been used to build both the Willits Bypass and the subway to the sea, along with a whole bunch of other progressive land use projects.