Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New Year Wishes for California

As we prepare for the Christmas holiday and for the New Year, it is also time to consider wishes for our collective future. Here is my number one holiday wish—JOBS.

California’s unemployment rate remains at an unacceptable 12.3 percent. Given our fiscal problems, we need the federal government to help jump-start our economy by investing in California infrastructure. Some economists estimate that for every $1 billion dollars of bond funding we invest in infrastructure, we get over 18,000 jobs.

But our state is saddled with massive debts of the past—which results in us having lower bond ratings than the Philippines and Mexico and in huge debt service costs which negatively impact our general fund. Even though we have ample bond funding that has been approved by the voters, we can’t issue the bonds because we are already overwhelmed with debt. Therefore, we need the federal government’s help to get Californians back to work. We can’t do it alone.

The federal government can do many things to help. It can guarantee our debt at little or no cost to the federal treasury. In fact, the Speaker and I went to Washington earlier this year to request such assistance and its time to renew our efforts. The federal government can provide us stimulus funds which we can leverage through issuing bonds. It can assist us with paying off bonds that create jobs. Or, it can provide us direct, cash assistance to create jobs.

Such assistance should not be considered a gift. It is in our country’s best interests to invest in California. California is getting historic low prices on public works and infrastructure projects—the construction industry needs work and competition is fierce. California has over $300 billion in infrastructure improvements we need to make and NOW is the best time to make that investment. We have bonds that have been approved by voters but which we are economically unable to issue because we can’t pay even the debt service in the short-term. Help us fix our infrastructure problems now, when we are getting such a good deal on the investment and kick-start our economy in the process.

In addition, California is a donor state. In other words, the money we send to the US Treasury goes to help other states. If the California economy crashes, so will economies in other states. Give us the jobs and tools to get ourselves back to economic health and we will make sure the rest of America reaps the dividends of our growth and innovation for years to come.

Now that’s change we can all believe in for the New Year.