Saturday, January 07, 2006

Governor Needs Widespread Support for Blockbuster Plan

Now for some state politics here. I haven't had a chance to write about our Governator here since the special election, but he made a huge sales pitch to the people of California. This is from the Los Angeles Times:

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger casts himself as a world-class pitchman who has parlayed even his worst movies into box-office wealth, and in proposing the biggest construction blitz in California history he may have taken on the toughest sales job of his life.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger delivers his State of the State address at the state Capitol.(Robert Durell / LAT)

To realize the grand vision he outlined in Thursday's State of the State speech, he'll need substantial political capital. He'll also need the unswerving loyalty of Republican lawmakers, without whom the sweeping plan cannot pass the Legislature.

The governor will need to convince voters that he can be trusted to bring to fruition a program of enormous cost, complexity and scope. But two years after taking office, he has no record of accomplishing anything approaching such a scale.

Schwarzenegger is simply betting the public shares his conviction that California's network of roads, ports, levees, courthouses and schools is woefully unprepared for the population growth predicted over the next two decades. He must also hope the public won't mind his program's $222-billion price tag. Nearly $70 billion of that would be borrowed.

Those billions would buy hundreds of miles of highway and commuter rail lines, new toll lanes and port modernization. The governor wants to build 2,000 new schools and upgrade 141,000 classrooms. He is proposing new county jails and court buildings. And to guard against flooding, he is calling for improvements to state levees.

He sought to drive home his message Friday in Nimbus, outside Sacramento, where he warned, "In many parts of our state a big earthquake or a few big storms one after another could cause major levee failure and huge damage."

Fears of a Katrina-style disaster might help the governor win pieces of the 10-year building program and declare victory, some analysts said. And Schwarzenegger may be able to count on support from powerful interests: Labor unions typically welcome building projects that create jobs. Cities and counties probably will endorse plans to remedy crumbling roads.

Now I'll admit that California need some serious infrastructure rebuilding here, but to borrow $70 billion for this boondoggle rebuilding plan? That's an eye-opener for me. The governator has a big problem here. First, he staked his political career on his special election propositions last year. Unfortunately, Schwarzenegger's support for these special elections angered some powerful interest groups in the state--specifically the labor unions (teachers, firefighters, and police), the state legislature, pro-abortion groups, as well as other liberal and progressive interests against him. His special election propositions went down the tubes.

So now what do we have? We've got a Governator who has almost no claim to any legislative or political success during his term in office--and he's now up for re-election this year. The Republicans are certainly angry that he installed a "Democratic activist, Susan Kennedy, as his chief of staff." The Democrats in the state legislature are suspicious of handing anything over that Schwarzenegger could claim as a political victory. And so far, no one has asked where this $70 billion is going to come from, or how we Californians are going to be able to pay for it. I'd say this is a political bribe, from the Governator to the people of California: Re-Elect me, and I'll shower you with all these state goodies that you won't have to pay for.

I'm not sure I like this little bribe.

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