Monday, March 20, 2006
IN MY OPINION (Column)
Deal or No Deal
By RAY HAYNES
I understand that it is an election year.
But this week in Sacramento was a disgrace, even by election year standards, and that is saying a lot.
In January, the governor proposed “rebuilding” California by spending $220 billion to build freeways, water storage, schools, prisons, courts and electricity lines. His plan included a little over $70 billion in general obligation bonds for a variety of different projects, to be leveraged with other sources of funding.
The Assembly Republicans immediately said they wanted to rebuild California, but they wanted the bond money to be spent on actually building things, and not on studies. They wanted to streamline the bureaucratic process currently required to undertake these projects (it takes 17 to 23 years to build a freeway, and we have only built two dams in the last 30 years, even though our population has nearly doubled). They also wanted a plan to “pay as you go” for the projects (as opposed to borrowing all of the money).
Democrats said “We’ll think about it. But two months passed without a peep from them.
Then a week ago, the governor demanded action. Time was running out. He believed his re-election depended on having a deal on the bonds for the June ballot. In his original plan, the governor demanded that freeways get built. The Democrats were now saying “no” we want affordable housing, buses, rail and transit systems, and we’ll stick a little money in for freeways.
The governor said deal, the legislative Republicans said no deal.
In his original plan, the governor wanted to repair the levees and build a dam or two for new water storage. The Democrats said “no” we want soccer fields and open space, no dams, and we’ll think about fixing the levees.
The governor said deal. The legislative Republicans said no deal.
Now I will say that the governor’s original plan was at least trying to address the issues. We do need to work on our infrastructure. Our freeways are congested, our houses cost too much, our schools are overcrowded, we are running out of water, electricity, and gasoline, and the Legislature has refused to do anything about these issues.
But the Democrats said no deal to that. They wanted to borrow $50 billion for “candy”, with very little of it dedicated to the real problems.
Then we get to Wednesday night after a lot of wrangling and arm twisting. The Assembly leaders said deal at 5:30 pm, convened the Legislature at 8:00 pm, and demanded a vote on $25 billion worth of bonds by 9:30 pm. It was a disgrace. None of us had seen the actual proposal.
Not one legislator, including the leaders, could really say what they were voting on, but they forced a vote that would obligate your children and grandchildren to repay $25 billion for schools and levees, because they were afraid that if they didn’t, someone might not vote for them in the next election.
This Legislature has agonized for months on whether to spend $200 million a year on police to protect our borders, $500 million for a prison, and $50 million to tear down a dam. But they only spent one hour and 30 minutes to decide to spend $25 billion on these projects.
The vote was driven purely by election year politics, and the consequences of that bad decision-making process could be felt for the next thirty years. The package was ordered rushed over to the Senate floor for their vote, but they had already adjourned, so it couldn’t be finalized.
I said no deal. Let’s think about it. Actually take the time to review what we are voting on. We’ve ignored it for 14 years another few months won’t hurt anyone. Yet only seven assemblymembers agreed with me. You want to know why our state is a mess. I offer up as Exhibit one this week in the Legislature. We should all say no deal.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company