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Governor Brown Begs the Spending Questions

Thursday March 23rd, 2017   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 9:13am PDT   •  

After the 2016 election, California governor Jerry Brown showed signs of early onset Trump Derangement Syndrome, pledging resistance and warning that California would “launch its own damn satellite” if President Trump backed off on climate research. On his trip to Washington this week, Brown toned down the defiance and held out the begging bowl.

The governor met with the heads of the federal Department of Transportation and FEMA to follow up requests for nearly $540 million in disaster relief for recent storm damage and nearly $650 million for a Bay Area rail project. Brown will also hit up the Trump Administration for more than $100 billion in infrastructure spending. “One way or another the roads must be fixed,” Brown said, and with all the money Trump wants to spend on defense and a border wall, “how do we then take care of our roads, our bridges, our dams and all the other things we have to deal with?” California taxpayers have a right to wonder how their recurring governor is doing on all that.

As Lawrence McQuillan observed last year, and as any motorist can easily verify, most of California’s 50,000 miles of highways are in terrible shape. The responsibility for maintenance lies with CalTrans, the huge state transportation agency with “a history of wasting taxpayer money, while at the same time demanding more funding.” Governor Brown has been uncritical of the CalTrans bosses who supervised the new span of the Bay Bridge. That came in ten years late and $5 billion over budget, and the bridge to no accountability, built with cheap Chinese steel, remains riddled with corrosion, faulty welds and such. Whistleblowers called for a criminal investigation but neither Brown nor attorney general Kamala Harris followed up on that. When apprised of the bridge’s safety issues, Brown famously said, “I mean, look, shit happens.”

The governor toned down a bit in the wake of the Oroville Dam spillway disaster this winter. State engineers knew all along the spillway was unreliable but did nothing. “I’m glad we found out about it,” Brown said, after nearly 200,000 people had to be evacuated. “We live in a world of risk. Stuff happens and we respond.” Not very well, taxpayers might say, on dams, roads and bridges and “all the other things we have to deal with.”

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March 2017