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Blue Model Blues
California’s Crumbling Infrastructure

California is supposed to represent a shining beacon of blue governance, proof-positive that enlightened progressive policies can produce effective public services and a well-functioning public sector. But as as Joel Kotkin notes in a column on the collapse of California’s Oroville dam, much of the state’s infrastructure—a basic government provision—is in a state of serious disrepair:

Once a national and global leader in infrastructure, according to a report last year by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, California now spends the least percentage of its state budget on infrastructure of any state.In the critical Sacramento-San Francisco Delta, an ancient levee and dike system is decaying, and ever more stringent environmental regulations limit key state and federal water facility operations… In terms of preparing for the future, California’s current penchant for endless studies and environmental hand-wringing is fostering pre-Katrina Louisiana conditions, rather than the forward-looking capital investments previously the state’s hallmark.

Meanwhile, as Kotkin notes, much of the state’s infrastructure efforts been devoted to the high-speed rail, a boondoggle project that looks less and less likely to deliver on most of its promises, and which the federal government recently put on hold in the face of cascading construction delays and cost overruns.

Another factor in California’s infrastructure crisis is its catastrophically mismanaged pension system. CalPERS, the union-dominated fund that pays benefits to retirees, has dramatically downplayed its liabilities through accounting chicanery, and the state’s pensions are now $1.2 trillion dollars in the hole. CalPERS was recently forced to begin to reduce its projected rate of return so as to force bigger contributions from Sacramento and local governments. These reductions will squeeze infrastructure budgets even further.

If the Trump administration is serious about improving infrastructure in America as a whole, it should keep the experience of California in mind. That means, first, that it needs to reform regulatory and tort policy so that prospective projects aren’t as a rule subject to endless reviews and lawsuits that halt them in their tracks. Second, it needs to preserve space for infrastructure in the budget. The federal government has much more leeway to borrow than state governments do, but ballooning entitlement obligations will crowd it out in the long-run.

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  • Disappeared4x

    “As an infrastructure investment bank, we offer sovereign and non-sovereign finance for sound and sustainable projects in energy and power, transportation and telecommunications, rural infrastructure and agriculture development, water supply and sanitation, environmental protection, urban development and logistics. ”
    https://www.aiib.org/en/about-aiib/who-we-are/our-work/index.html

    REBUILDING OUR INFRASTRUCTURE: President Donald J. Trump is taking action on his commitment to rebuilding the United States. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/02/28/president-trump-working-rebuild-our-nations-infrastructure

    Presidential Executive Order on Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda
    https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/02/24/presidential-executive-order-enforcing-regulatory-reform-agenda

  • Jim__L

    The worst part? We didn’t take care of our hydrological infrastructure during the drought, when it would have been far, far easier to do it.

    Now we may have to fix the roof during the rainy season, as it were.

    • CaliforniaStark

      A major reason California did not prepare for the recent rain storms, and why the Oroville Dam debacle happened, was the dogmatic belief that climate change had created in permanent drought situation in California. Governor Brown and the green zealots maintained that California was now in permanent drought, and so there was no reason to worry about building more dams, strengthening infrastructure, and being otherwise prepared for future rainy years with flooding. A NYT article last year entitled: “California Braces for Unending Drought” provides an example of the mindset in question:

      https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/10/us/california-drought-water-restrictions-permanent.html?_r=0

      Peter Gleick, of the Pacific Institute, a self-proclaimed environmental group, stated: ““We’ve built on all the dam sites,’. . ‘Even if we built a couple of dams, we don’t have water to fill them. We’re tapped out. The traditional answer of building more reservoirs won’t solve our problems.”

      What happened in recent months with the massive rains and flooding, has been happening in California for all of its recorded history, including the floods of 1861, and the 1930s, 1960s and 1990s, and many other other years. California is inundated with a massive amount rain and flooding on a periodic basis, and will continue to be; notwithstanding claims by green extremists, and sadly TAI (who should know better), that global warming is real, and has changed the weather patterns.

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