By Tim Hunt
Sacramento makes a deal on spending the gusher of cashUploaded: Jun 29, 2021
Thanks to a generous and unnecessary influx of borrowed federal money, the question for Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature is how to spend more than $262 billion next year and beyond.
That contrasts sharply with the placeholder budget approved in 2020 that closed an estimated $54 billion gap between revenues and planned expenditures. It included triggers for cuts depending upon the amount of federal money received. Expenditures were planned for nearly $134 billion, far cry from what’s on the table this year now that the federal money has flowed and the economy performed much better than anticipated.
The Sacramento leaders have continued their questionable—at best—process of passing a placeholder budget before June 15 so they continue to be paid and then trying to clean up the details later. The governor and legislative leaders agreed to a package last Friday, but there’s still much work to be done in the budget trailer bills. These bills, which are not subject to any of the normal hearings and legislative process, have be used for significant policy changes.
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters has devoted several pieces to how the legislators and governors use this tactic to skirt around the intent of laws.
There’s one additional unfortunate result: legislators can continue to put off dealing with the hugely expensive bullet train. Newsom had it right in 2018 when he initially said it was time to put the project to bed—stop throwing good money after bad in my view. Sadly, influential people got to him and he changed his mind in favor of an absurd plan for tracks from Bakersfield to Merced.
The Trump Administration knocked some funding out of that plan by holding the state to the terms of the Obama Administration stimulus act that included the funding. Remember, that was designed for shovel-ready projects. Obama officials continued to adjust the rules to keep the bullet train eligible despite its delays.
It’s no secret that President Joe Biden is fan of trains. He rode a train daily from his Delaware home to Washington D.C. while serving in the Senate. So, naturally, in their continued effort to undo anything Trump, the money has been reinstated. It’s $1 billion so it will help keep the cash-starved project under construction.
Sadly, it will do nothing for taxpayers. Remember, this was a $10 billion bond measure passed by voters in 2008 that called for high-speed rail from San Francisco to Los Angeles traveling at 200 mph and delivering passengers in under three hours. It also was expected to attract private investment—there’s been none to date and operate without any taxpayer subsidy.
You think we’ve been sold some swamp land?