McClintock is an expert on matters of the State
budget and fiscal discipline. He is a Senator
in the California State Legislature and ran
for Governor in the 2003 recall election. His
valuable website is found at www.tommclintock.com [McClintock index]
permeated two Democratic and two Republican administrations,
and I am very glad to see this administration breaking from
pertains to this specific proposal, I would like to offer
a few general observations.
by definition, transportation projects provide a direct and
exclusive benefit upon a distinct class of users, and they
ought to be entirely supported by those users. Thus, highways
should be financed entirely by the users of those highways
in proportion to their use. Ports should be financed entirely
by the users of ports; mass transit by the users of mass
transit, and so forth.
to highways, California has long recognized that the most
efficient way to do so is through a tax on gasoline paid
by highway users in proportion to their use.
there should be a clear distinction between the state highway
system, that links the principal population, commercial,
industrial and resource centers of the state; and local streets
and roads that exclusively serve local communities. We used
to make that distinction and we divided our gasoline taxes
between the state and the various local jurisdictions.
it should be recognized that highway construction and maintenance
is an ongoing responsibility of each generation and should
be funded on a pay-as-you-go basis. Each generation has its
own maintenance to do and its own roads to build without
being encumbered by the decisions of previous generations.
Only in the case of capital intensive projects like tunnels
and bridges have genuine revenue bonds been used, redeemed
not by general highway users, and not by general taxpayers,
but by the specific users of those specific projects through
against these principles, the bond measure before us is a
textbook example of how NOT to finance highways.
the use of general obligation bonds for transportation projects
literally forces those who don’t use them to pay for
those who do. Transportation projects should be paid for
by the users of those projects in proportion to their use.
the proposal contemplates indebting ALL taxpayers across
the state to pay for local streets and roads in other communities – again
literally robbing Piedmont to pay Pasadena . State funds
should only be used for projects that benefit the entire
state – such as the state highway system. Projects
that exclusively benefit local communities – such as
local streets -- should be exclusively paid for by those
the proposal contemplates using 30-year bonds to pay for
maintenance and equipment that will be obsolete long before
the bonds are paid off, stripping the next generation of
their ability to meet their own maintenance and equipment
the proposal locks in transportation priorities that may
be entirely irrelevant or outdated a few decades from now.
Population centers and transportation preferences change
over time. If projects are funded on a pay-as-you-go basis,
they can respond to changes in transportation needs. These
30-year measures rob our children of that flexibility.
by encumbering gasoline taxes to pay for so-called “revenue
bonds” for mass transit, you are literally robbing
highway users to subsidize mass transit users – destroying
the financial connection between the users and the payers
of transportation projects.
is the fine point of it. Californians pay the fourth highest
tax per gallon of gasoline in the country. We rank 49th in
our per capita spending on our highways. Our problem has
never been a lack of funds – but rather an abundance
of very bad public policy.
taxes have been siphoned off for purposes unrelated to our
highways, and local governments were given what amounts to
veto power over state highway projects.
point, just for perspective. At the end of the Pat Brown
administration, to produce the historic expansion of the
state highway system, the state water project, the state
university system and so much more, the total amount of general
obligation debt incurred over the eight years of that administration – in
2004 inflation-adjusted dollars – was $20 billion.
This proposal contemplates general obligation debt of nearly
end of that administration, only 2.2 percent of the general
fund was consumed by debt service. Today the figure is 5.9
end of that administration, per capita spending – in
2004 inflation-adjusted dollars – amounted to under
$1,500 per person. Today it is over $3,000 per person.
delivered us to this fiscal paradox: despite record levels
of debt, we have nothing to show for it; and despite record
expenditures, we can’t seem to scrape together enough
money to build a decent road system.
that the overall plan contemplates nearly $70 billion of
debt – compared to only $20 billion amassed by Pat
Brown -- leads me to conclude that its sponsors already anticipate
that it will be just as foolishly squandered as the record
levels of debt and taxes that we are already paying for our
this point in the proceedings, it would be customary to offer
amendments to bring the proposal into line with the sound
principles of fiscal policy that Senator Dutton outlined
course, we are now powerless to do so, because the leadership
of the Senate has agreed to bypass the constitutional process
of the legislature and instead draft this measure by six
members in a conference committee. So the proceedings today
are so much hot air. We cannot amend this measure in any
In a decision
that will rank as the most shameful in the history of the
California Senate, the leadership has abandoned the legislature’s
role – and especially the Senate’s role – as
the central decision-making organ in the state government.
The careful deliberation and amendment of public policy is
now a thing of the past.
told our role is now “advisory.” Excuse me, but
that’s what the Public Policy Institute and the Comstock
Club are for. This is a legislature. We are not supposed
to be advising on legislation. We are supposed to be acting
offer amendments, so all I can do is protest, and to vote “No” when
this breathtakingly bad public policy is finally dumped in
our laps for a take-it or leave-it vote. CRO