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A Modest Proposal
The answer is not just to borrow…
[Ray Haynes] 1/16/06

I have been on a Governor-bashing binge lately, so I thought I would change focus. Not that there is no reason to criticize the Governor, there is. He has proposed a $222 billion bond package and a budget that spends $7 billion more than it takes in. For the fellow that got elected promising to sweep out the spending addicts in Sacramento, it seems he has tasted the spending high, and likes it a little too much. Maybe not yet an addict, but he is certainly starting to chase the dragon.

That being said, the Governor deserves credit for once again taking on a large challenge, even if the strategy is a little flawed. Everyone in this state knows that California has some significant challenges. Our freeways are congested, our schools are overcrowded, we are running out of water, electricity, and gasoline, and we are overrun with people who make too much money by doing absolutely nothing about these problems. By issuing the challenge to build our roads, schools, courts and waterways, the Governor has chosen an ambitious agenda to relieve some level of suffering each of us currently has to endure everyday. That is a good thing.


Ray Haynes

Mr. Haynes is an Assembly member representing Riverside and Temecula. He serves on the Appropriations and Budget Committees. [go to Assembly Member Haynes website at California Assembly][go to Haynes index]

The problem is the method in which he proposes financing the effort. There is no question that the Democrat-controlled Legislature has done everything in its power over the last 30 years to stifle this state. In 1974, when Jerry Brown was elected Governor, he pronounced his agenda, which was basically – if we don’t build it, they won’t come. So, we stopped building in this state, but the people still kept coming.

From 1950 to 1974, this state built a magnificent freeway system, a water collection and distribution system without rival in the world, a world-class university system, and the best K-12 education system in the entire country. Yet, in 1974, the state’s total general fund budget was $8.6 billion. The state was spending $394 per person, and about $6 for every one hundred dollars of income. Today, the state’s general fund budget is $98 billion; the state is spending $2,609 per person, and nearly $7 for every one hundred dollars of income. With all of that, we can’t seem to find the money to build roads and schools.

The answer is not just to borrow. There is no doubt that the state needs to recommit to rebuilding its facilities, but the plan to do so must be comprehensive, and it must follow the following principles:

  1. The money borrowed must actually be spent on public facilities, not studies. We spend millions of dollars every year on government employees who study, plan, and write reports about building freeways, but never really get around to building them. The money spent must be for bulldozers and asphalt, not killing trees for reports.
  2. Every project for which we borrow money must be completed in 10 years or less. Today, it takes 23 years to build a freeway. Of that 20 years is wasted doing studies, having meetings and writing reports to appease the regulatory bureaucrats. That is simply too long and costly to get the relief we need.
  3. The plan must include some form of pay-as-you-go money. Two years ago, this state was spending $78 billion general funds. Today, the proposal is to spend $98 billion. The state could take half of that money for roads and school buildings, and still have ten percent more money for state services than it did two years ago. Indeed, $10 billion a year for the next twenty years would build as much as the Governor’s proposal, without debt.

Some borrowing may be necessary, but not $222 billion. Some increase in government is inevitable, but not $20 billion worth in two years. Our roads and school buildings deserve our attention, but not at the expense of our children and grandchildren, who will be forced to pay this debt. The principles listed above would solve those problems. The Governor should give them serious consideration. -CRO-

Mr. Haynes is a California Assembleyman representing Riverside and Temecula and frequent contributor to


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