Ed Mendel of the San Diego Union-Tribune is probably the best reporter in the Sacramento press corps right now. He seems to be the only one lately willing to tell us some unvarnished truth, and he often provides good historical context to political events happening in the Capitol. So today, while most of the other major papers are still busy fawning all over Schwarzenegger and his “Big, Bold Plan” (As the Alliance rightfully pointed out, George Skelton’s column in the L.A. TImes is quite barf-worthy), Mendel looks at the bond proposal from an objective viewpoint. Oh, right! That’s what journalists are supposed to do all the time. Well, it’s been so long since we’ve seen it, it really does jump right out and grab you!
The basic idea pushed by Schwarzenegger in his State of the State address Thursday — that as the population booms, the state has done little to expand infrastructure for decades — is nothing new.
Two former governors, Gray Davis and Pete Wilson, acknowledged the problem by appointing panels on infrastructure and growth, only to have their reports ignored when they were issued during economic downturns.
Davis, who was ousted in the recall, may have had a flashback as he sat in the Assembly gallery Thursday while Schwarzenegger rolled out his plan.
“Estimates of our unfunded needs for traffic, schools and other public facilities are at least $40 billion, some say as much as $90 billion,” Davis said in his first State of the State address in 1999.
He then goes on to get into the political implications of the timing of this proposal in the beginning of an election year.
The lawmakers must act quickly to place a plan on the June ballot. Nunez said he has been told that the deadline is Jan. 26 to Jan. 28 for the regular ballot pamphlet and Feb. 12 for a supplemental pamphlet.
The interest of legislative leaders in infrastructure and tax revenue from a growing economy that’s narrowing a chronic budget gap might by themselves seem like a sign of good timing for the governor’s proposal.
But Schwarzenegger is running for re-election this year, raising the question of whether a Democratic-controlled Legislature will let the Republican governor lead the way on infrastructure or decide to wait until next year.
“If they can’t make the June ballot, I’m not sure they would give him a program for November that he could run on,” Business Roundtable leader Hauck said.
This bond plan is an old idea. We need investments in infrastructure, but this state has big problems, and they will not be solved by throwing a ton of money into a plan that is being rushed onto the ballot for reasons that are purely political. If this is Schwarzenegger’s answer, his compelling reason for us to vote for him again, we should be able to beat him handliy, as long as we are able to articulate a clear and better alternative. We’re working on it, and we sure hope others are, too.
Of course, there is the media. But reporters like Ed Mendel give me hope!