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Fool Me Twice…

by Tom McClintock [politician] 7/20/07

Gov. Schwarzenegger and Senate President Don Perata held dueling press conferences Monday trying to outbid each other on water projects. Schwarzenegger won with his $6 billion entry – Perata weighed in at a paltry $5 billion.

I don’t want to pour cold water on these water bonds – California is in desperate condition after years of neglect of our state water system. But once again, buyers need to beware of a few thorny details.

First, Schwarzenegger’s promises that the money will actually be used on new dams and aqueducts rings hollow in the wake of his signing of AB 32, ordering a 25 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. Cement production is the third biggest generator of carbon dioxide gas in all human activity (ranking behind only deforestation and all internal combustion).

Tom McClintock

Mr. 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 http://www.carepublic.com/blog.html[McClintock index]

Attorney General Jerry Brown has already sued to block San Bernardino County from using its highway funds to build highways under this law, and he would no doubt jump at the chance to stop any dam or canal project that uses concrete or heavy equipment.

Second, we should have learned from the feeding frenzy after the November, 2006 bonds that financing should be the last part of the process – not the first. Until the specific projects are approved, engineered and bid, we really don’t have any idea how much they will cost or whether they will even come to fruition. Again, Brown’s lawsuit against San Bernardino should be a warning. Voters who thought their money was going for highways may soon discover that what they actually bought were transit villages, bicycle paths and pedestrian trails.

Third, water projects should not be financed with taxpayer-financed general obligation bonds. Revenue bonds are the appropriate instruments for water projects, redeemed by the users of the water in proportion to their use. Why should taxpayers in Eureka pay for El Centro’s water? California’s disregard of this simple principle has already driven our debt burden to record highs with little to show for it.

The bonds, if approved by the legislature, would appear on the ballot in 2008. By then, voters will have a clear sense of whether Schwarzenegger has delivered on his record-breaking bond package from 2006. My guess is there’ll be quite a lot of explaining to do. CRO





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