Governor Schwarzenegger presented a bill, authored by Democrats, for the issuance of bonds to pay for infrastructure in the State of California. The bill was rejected unanimously by the Republican Caucus.
Jon Fleishman of FlashReport writes:
I had a chat with Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman this morning, to talk about last night’s late session to take up the first-pass at passing a general obligation bond package that is a central part of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Strategic Infrastructure Plan. Ackerman told me that after a couple of days of very meaningful negotiations and dialogue, Senate Democrats put up a bill that was so untenable to the entire Republican Caucus that they all unanimously voted no. When I asked Ackerman about the dynamics of the vote he said, “All my caucus members had to do was read the proposal and they all voted no.”
The bond package put up for a vote by Senate President Pro-Tem Don Perata only vaguely resembles the original proposals for an infrastructure plan proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger back in his January State of the State Address. While the Governor has been focused on trying to achieve some sort of consensus and get a compromise plan out of the legislature — the massive borrowing package voted on last night was more like a Democrat SUBSTITUTE for the Governor’s plan.
Besides the fact that a lot of important GOP ‘must have’ components were absent – including much-needed CEQA reforms, and bond debt limit, and any meaningful commitment to pay-as-you-go — this package was like a Christmas tree on steroids, threatening to collapse under the weight of massive ornaments — these being massive spending on programs that go well beyond the scope of the mortar-and-brick types of construction that Californian’s think of when they hear the word ‘infrastructure’.
You can read a lot more about this in an insightful and telling MUST READ article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, by reporter Greg Lucas, where you can read quotes like this one:
“Protection of environmental resources is as much of a long-term investment in California’s future as is the construction of public works that provide water or improve transportation or schools,” said Tom Graff, regional director of the Environmental Defense Fund in Oakland.
The list of massive amounts of funding that go towards an extreme liberal’s view of ‘infrastructure’ is amazing, and you can read about much of it in the Lucas piece.
“It’s far from bricks and mortar, far from setting priorities for getting people from home to their jobs faster,” said Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster in Lucas’ article.
It is precisely the focus of legislative Democrats on all of this non-infrastructure ‘social engineering’ nonsense that has put California in this bind in the first place.
In the meantime, Senate Democrats’ zeal for environmental programs is exceeded by their steadfast opposition to “above ground storage” for water — which, when you take away all of the jargon, means they don’t want any more dams built in California. But no one is really talking about an Hetch-Hetchy style high sierra dams, but rather some rather broad a shallow water storage in some of California’s most remote areas, where the only endangered species is the California Dirt Clod.
Anyways, Ackerman went on to say that he thinks that negotiations will pick up again on Monday morning, and he felt that the legislature probably had until as late as Tuesday to pass something for consideration on the June ballot.
Ackerman made it clear that in his caucus, there is a resolve to let a deadline slip for June if the tradeoff would mean supporting a package such as the one presented to the full Senate last night.
As for Assembly Republicans — their resolve is also strong. I had an opportunity to spend some time with Assemblywoman Lynn Daucher last night, and she was very firm in her belief there is “not one Republican vote” for a infrastructure proposal that is absent the needed reforms that have been discussed — all of the ones absent from the plan advanced by Democrats last night.
The Republican Caucus has a plan for the infrastructure bonds that would cost the taxpayers of California much less than the current plan. The plan would involve “pay as you go” plans, reduction of the amount of the bonds for non-essential improvements, and other ways to reduce the ultimate cost, but provide the funds needed to complete the infrastructure improvements over the next ten years.
Steve Frank, Political Analyst, and author of California Political News and Views wrote this article before the vote, but it describes the problems with the current plan.
The issue is clear. California has massive infrastructure needs. Roads, levees. water projects. Note, I do not say schools. That is because the extremely large number of illegal aliens in the Los Angeles schools have stolen education money from honest students. And, the Los Angeles District is so corrupt and incompetent, that they have “lost” track of over one billion dollars–why give these folks more money?
But the Guv has shown himself to be a creative negotiator. Even though not a single member of the Republican Caucus in the State Assembly (congratulations to moderate Keith Richman for standing tall against billions in bonded indebtedness thrown on the backs of California’s hard working families) supports this effort, the Governor continues to negotiate with the Democrats for a deal. Yes, the Democrats, not the Republicans. Assemblyman Chuck DeVore iN a blog today noted, “Of course, if we do vote on Sunday, none of us on the Republican side will have actually read the bills on which we will be voting as they are negotiated between the governor and Democrats with the Republicans viewed as a kind of annoying little brother who keeps interrupting the discussion.”
To make the point even clearer. On Wednesday of this week the Governor, after spending hours with the Democrats appeared at the Republican Assembly Caucus. He showed them a few pages with numbers on them (I have copies of the documents), no details, no priorities, no explanation what the $71 billion in bonds, and $222 billion in total expenditure, will buy. No discussion as to whether the unions get to keep prevailing wage and Little Davis-Bacon, the enviros get to keep the lawyer enriching environmental laws or whether there would be any reforms the Governor asked for last Fall. Instead, the GOP’ers were told, “this deal is good for California”. Yes, but what is the deal?
Would you authorize spending $71 billion without seeing the details? That is what the governor is asking 120 members of the legislature. First vote the money, then I will give you the complete details.
Here are some of the numbers and an explanation:
$135 million for “farm worker housing”. Why aren’t the farmers paying for this, instead of the taxpayer? Plus, maybe a majority of the farm workers are illegal aliens–why are we building housing for illegal aliens?
$4.7 billion for mass transit, out of $11.3 billion in the 2006 bond–yet only $1 billion in road maintenance at the same time (STIP spending)
$2 billion for “Trade Infrastructure”–but no explanation what that is and how the money will be spent
$300 million for “Transit Oriented Development”–what is this? Is some of this money for eminent domain? No idea, because there was no explanation.
Good business people don’t spend this kind of money without extensive hearings, investigation and understanding. At best they will be given 48 hours to look at everything before they will be forced to vote on Sunday, March 12. Is this the way to do business? Is there any wonder folks have no trust in Sacramento, when they decide to spend this much money with absolutely no oversite and little explanation!
This is a twenty year plan to be decided by the legislature in less than 48 hours, with most not even getting to see the complete deal. What ticking bombs are in the plan? How much for attorneys to fight the battles of the environmentalists? How much more in programs can be in spent if Reforms are put into place? What are the ramification for other needs of the State if these pass? How much in current programs will need to be cut to pay for the interest payments. How much of the “education” money goes to Los Angeles and how much to the rest of the State?
These are just some of the question not answered. The phrase “Rush To Judgement” comes to mind.
As I was finishing the editing of this piece a friend called and asked me what I was doing. When I told him that I was writing a piece on the governor’s Infrastructure Plan, he said, “What Plan?”
I look forward to the thorough analysis of the plan, before the vote, by Senator Tom McClintock. I, along with other conservatives trust his judgement on fiscal matters. He said, at the California Republican Assembly convention last weekend that he would continue speaking out against wrong economic policy, regardless of the source. I offer this space to Senator McClintock, free of editing, to explain his reasons for supporting or opposing the Democrat/Governors proposal on the infrastructure. Tom, the people of California are looking forward to your voice.
The Governor needs to present a plan that is fiscally responsible so that he can get the Republicans to support it, and that plan needs to explain where and what the funds are going to be used for.