Schwarzenegger’s Legacy–his name on lots of new structures

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s State of the State speech marks a real shift in his attempt at a political legacy. (speech here and his more detailed plan here His 2004 and 2005 speeches focused on real reform of the system, trying to fix the structural problems that helped California. This speech essentially says, “OK, I give up on that. So instead, I propose to mortgage our children’s future with over $50bn in new bonds to build monuments.” That last bit is a tad harsh, most of the things his plan covers–new roads, dams, levees, schools, etc–need to be built. California’s deep infrastructure backlog is a direct result of over a decade of neglect and deferred maintenance. So, a disappointing shift from fixing things to big-spending republican ideas. In the way of constructive criticism, the plan would be a LOT more palatable if it: –acknowledged that for many years the general fund has stolen from infrastructure funds and has not done its part in maintaining what exists. Gov. Schwarzenegger should propose some spending reform and instead of spending all the new revenue coming in, pony up $5-7 billion out of each year’s budget as part of the infrastructure funding plan. –recognize that many of the things that need to be built, especially roads, levees, higher ed facilities, etc, have or can have revenues associated with them, so some of the funding should be revenue bonds. GO bonds don’t have to carry the entire load. –be more aggressive and detailed in how to get private investment in these projects. Schwarzenegger’s plan, to its credit, includes attracting about $12bn in private investment in new toll roads. That is piking (pun intended :-). A more aggressive and still realistic plan would look to at least double that. (See Reason’s ideas on this here). I am glad to see Gov. Schwarzenegger focus on infrastructure–a long overdue need. But I hate see a cavalier, “let’s run our credit card up to the max” approach to funding it. Time to refine the plan to fiscal sense.