-By Warner Todd Huston
The left-wing idea that it’s good for government to always wildly increase spending is dying a quick death these days. But this good sense has not made it to every state in the union yet — two disastrous states in particular; California and Illinois.
These two states have not learned the lesson about the ruinous government spending that is causing the country to teeter on the brink of bankruptcy.
Apparently, Illinois and California are vying for worst-state status. Moody’s Investment service, for instance, has rated Illinois the worst, but Standard & Poor’s says its California. But California has one thing that makes its fragile economic situation worse than Illinois. California’s penchant for economically ruinous ballot measures that create boondoggle programs that the taxpayers are forced to pay for is not rivaled by the common corruption endured by the citizens of Illinois.
The worst boondoggle currently forced on the people of California is the high-speed rail project that is already running billions over initial cost estimates even before the first foot of track is laid.
A damning new report from an independent panel assigned to monitor progress of California’s high-speed rail system shows just how bad this project has become. Moving forward with the project, they said, “represents an immense financial risk to the state of California.”
This report follows on the heels of recent revelations that the program’s projected costs have doubled to nearly $100 billion in just three short years since taxpayers were duped into approving the project.
A congressional oversight hearing was even held upon concerns surrounding the high-speed rail project and the news wasn’t good.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearings revealed that some of the key funding plans expected to help the California High-Speed Rail Authority to complete the project aren’t likely to pass in Congress leaving the whole financial underpinnings of the project in doubt.
At least taxpayers can take solace in the fact that there is an independent panel to provide some external oversight of the spending on the massive high-speed rail project. This means that at least taxpayers have access to information that isn’t tainted by insider conflicts and the sort of self-interested, double-dealing that we’ve seen in so many other supposedly beneficial measures.
The same cannot be said for another ballot measure boondoggle — the so-called California Cancer Research Act — slated for the June ballot. This deeply flawed measure raises taxes on Californians by nearly $1 billion per year, creating huge new bureaucracies that are supposed to last in perpetuity without any real oversight. Californians are simply asked to place their trust in a panel of six political appointees that are supposed to administer the funds. Worse, this panel’s spending decisions are completely untouchable by the Legislature, the Governor and the State Auditor for 15 years, meaning California taxpayers have no recourse at all to prevent the exact kind of reckless spending that has crippled the state in other areas.
On top of all these flaws, this measure doesn’t even contain any guarantees that the money for the research will be spent in the state! That means Californians could be digging deeper into their pockets for spending that goes to firms and institutes outside their state.
Just like a family that’s gotten in over its head in a mortgage, California needs to stop spending and dramatically reduce expenditures. Saying no to boondoggles like high-speed rail and the California Cancer Research Act are good places to start.