You reap what you sow, Gov. Schwarzenegger.

So the governor and the legislature are moving the water bond to the 2012 elections?  I’m not surprised.  I could not decide for myself what to vote on the bond, and not only am I in the field, but I’m a liberal who loves to spend, spend, spend*.    Even so, I had a hard time facing a new $11B expenditure.

My thoughts:

I agree with how I imagine the political calculations went.  The bond would have failed this year.  Who knows whether two years from now will be better, but failure this year looked pretty certain.  This keeps the possibility open.

What would make 2012 better for passing the bond?  Two dry years between now and 2012 would make the chance of passage better.  A responsible governor who can close the budget gap would make it better.  It will be a presidential election year, with high turnout, but I can’t see how that breaks for the bond.  Bunch of spendy liberals like me, out voting for Obama might throw the bond measure some votes.  But the bond measure also has the potential for dams in it, and we’ve been trained not to like those.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer governor, I say.  Schwarzenegger has been pushing this water package so hard; he wants the Peripheral Canal as his legacy.  But he was the fucker who cut the car tax on taking office, costing the state $4-6B every year since 2003.  He is largely responsible for the giant hole in the budget that makes people unwilling to spend another $11B.  I’m glad that circle closed while he was still around to feel it bind.

I’m interested in how we’re going to fulfill the rest of the water legislation without money from the bond behind it.  What will pay for the Delta Stewardship Council and the Bay-Delta restoration efforts without that money?  What will fund 20 x 2020 now?  The water legislation is law; we have to at least pretend that that we’re doing it.  How will that happen without funding for doing the work?

I’m somewhat concerned about losing the projects the bond would have funded.  I don’t mind losing the $3B for planning Sites, Temperance Flats and the Peripheral Canal.  I think the Peripheral Canal will get built as an emergency measure when the Delta collapses in an earthquake and I don’t think the other two will ever get built.  It is a shame to lose the Delta restoration funds.  But honestly, the piece I liked was the part that everyone keeps calling “pork”.   I liked the regional and local projects.

Dr. Michael objects to taxpayers at large paying for the regional and local projects.  He thinks that if the local projects are worthwhile, locals should pay for them.  I thought they legitimately belonged in a state bond for a few reasons:

  • Our next water will be collected from high entropy sources, like stormwater runoff, which is widely distributed and often polluted or from water conservation.  It is hard to convince voters to pay for that, even though it would give a region more local control and source security to have that next source available to them.
  • I believe local voters want this stuff (they lobbied for the projects, didn’t they?), but they also see a list of other local needs, like keeping pools open and libraries staffed.  Even though funding for things like a smart irrigation control rebate is something they do want, they rarely feel they want to pay for it next.
  • Some of the local projects are new to an area, and hard to convince locals to tax themselves for in the abstract.  It is understandable that they need to see a couple stormwater projects becoming daylighted creeks before they understand how much they like having that amenity.
  • Finally, I liked that the bond measure would fund a bunch of these at once.  It would have provided $3B of mini-innovation all over the state.  Frankly, the stuff in those local projects is what we’re going to have to do next; as a state, we have tapped all the big pure sources.  Lets get a bunch of those running fast so the state as a whole can find out which work.  Simply getting lots of projects running soon offers value to the state.

Those are my thoughts on delaying the bond measure (and on the bond measure in general).  Don’t figure they’ll be relevant again for another couple years.

*I also love high taxes, particularly on the wealthy, to cover those expenditures, but California seems to have forgotten that part.  Also, I wish we weren’t buying quite so many prisons with my tax dollars.  Those do me remarkably little good for the money I spend.


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7 responses to “You reap what you sow, Gov. Schwarzenegger.

  1. I agree with you most of the time, but not here.

    First, in defense of the Gov, he isn’t the primary cause of the recession or the budget deficit, raising taxes on rich people or cars as you prefer wouldn’t change a thing. At least you admit you are a spendy liberal who wants to spend people’s money for them.

    Second, I do appreciate the value of publically funded demonstration projects and R&D, but we already have these for water recycling and some types of alternative supplies in the bond. There are better ways to fund these.

    Third, we probably agree on this problem. Rather than get moving on sensible, useful projects now, local agencies will now wait longer to see if they can get them subsidized with other people’s money.

  2. Jeff, I normally agree with you, too, but not here.

    You already understand this, but just in case the unspendy types who might read this blog and who use some of your rhetoric don’t, let me ask you a question or two:

    If spendy liberal persons who believe that taxes, by governments at one scale or another, are the best way we know to actually have things that we need or want but cannot afford to pay for as individuals, what have unspendy types alternatively offered us?

    You may not blame the governor, but what about his party? What has their last 30+ years of Prop 13-fueled, 1/3 minority control over the states’ fiscal situation produced?

    Do you have an example of a more locally-based community or region making wise, forward-thinking decisions (I infer that this is your preferred model of public works development) by either taxing themselves or a more creative form to finance wanted or needed development? If so, is the model transferable to other (poorer) parts of the state?

    Like those parts that have barely maintained schools, lots and lots of prisons (I love the term “archipelagos”), and crumbling water supplies for cities and farms and fish. 40% unemployment in places like Mendota. Etc.

    Sometimes, someone has to spend other peoples’ money, and redistribute that money (which is really the point that gets under the skin of the unspendy types I think). Otherwise, kids don’t go to school, freed prisoners run amok in the cul-de-sacs of Orange County (which has built a very nice waste water to fresh water infrastructure that I wish the rest of the state could afford), and salt water comes out of faucets and garden hoses.

    Maybe the argument you and others make is that people who live in miserable parts of Cali like Mendota can just move. They are free Americans, after all, free to pursue the American Dream. You don’t believe that BS, do you?

  3. Margie

    Word on the street is that some of the legislators who got their arms majorly twisted to vote on the water bill may not be so willing to yank it off the ballot. It takes more than a majority voted to pull it off, I believe. This thing isn’t quite dead yet.

  4. onthepublicrecord

    Hey John,

    You understand our budget constraints pretty well, for a Canadian. Nice work.

    I wouldn’t go guessing at what Jeff feels in his heart (your last paragraph). It feels so insulting, on the other side of that, to have someone imply your motivations, especially when you know your own experiences are much more nuanced and split.

    Further, so long as I’ve been reading his blog, Jeff has been consistently and acutely concerned with the folks who have caught the brunt of this recession. Time and again, he points out what job losses mean to people in the Central Valley. That said, I don’t agree with his what I think are Jeff’s policy preferences for the CA budget.


    Really? They didn’t want to vote for this beast in the first place, but now they don’t want to have to do it again later? I could see that.

  5. OTPR, you’re right, and thank you for the gentle but pointed criticism. Sloppy paragraph. Sorry, Jeff. I too have valued your close scrutiny of the SJV’s woes, and apologize for not being clearer about connecting the earlier paragraphs to the final one and, especially, in that last one, for putting “you” with “others.”

  6. I, too, liked many of the projects decried as pork by political writers, who didn’t see the point in watershed education centers or storm water capture projects, but in their many breathless reports seemed to applaud the $3bn or so set aside for dams and storage. Concrete, jobs and glittering reservoirs, the real white meat.

    Seen from a So Cal perspective, the most depressing thing is how threats of disaster coupled with calls to the public to seize the day have, overnight, attained Never Mind status.

  7. All I meant was that I think a Democratic Governor would only be the difference between a $15 billion hole and a $19 billion hole. And if we had lower deficits and higher taxes, the politics of the bond wouldn’t necessarily be better. Reaping what you sow, seems a bit over the top at the Gov, but if he had just ordered the minimum wage for me, I would probably say much worse.

    I don’t mind government spending, but not for a “private good” (which in an economic sense, water coming out of a metered tap or irrigation supply is even if a public resource in situ), especially if there are negative externalities in its production. Lots of public works are pure public goods in whole or part (flood control is a water example) or have positive externalities and are rightly subsidized. Indeed, some of the bonds “pork” is in this category, and you do have some points but there are other ways to subsdize than to be part of this hideous bond.

    And John, I think these water bond projects are going to do more for the rich than the poor in this state. Last I checked the chamber of commerce was endorsing and the teachers and UFW were opposed. Taking $800+ million a year from other purposes in the General Fund will most definitely hurt the poor. Which is the major reason I oppose it, not paranoia about it funding a peripheral canal (above post).

    “Spendy liberal” is funny and self-deprecating, I might rip it off from you when I am defending stimulus to my typical conservative audiences.