When the State’s voters recently approved Prop 30, they basically expressed their trust that the Governor and the Legislature will spend well the state’s new tax money. Unfortunately just two days after the election, a powerful state employees union (PECG representing Caltrans employees) renewed its efforts to expand its control over major transportation projects in California.
PECG’s goal is to once again expand the state’s already large and inefficient transportation bureaucracy (some 20,000+ employees).
Last Thursday, the Legislative Analyst’s Office issued its report on Public Private Partnerships (P3s). Almost immediately PECG issued a press release recycling PECG’s routine hyperbola about P3s being ‘wasteful’ and not in the interests of the taxpayer. PECG, as usual, totally ignored the many benefits of P3s—such as private investment in needed new infrastructure projects, speedy project delivery and transfer of risk from the taxpayers to private investors. Compared to California, most other states have made much greater use of and been much more successful at using P3s to deliver needed infrastructure. Just last month, the state of Texas–using private financing–opened the final segment of state highway 130, a new 41-mile toll road around the City of Austin. California already does a poor job of attracting private sector initiative and investments to deliver needed infrastructure.
If PECG is now successful at erecting additional anti-P3 barriers, investors will be even less interested in investing here. That could retard efforts to deliver key infrastructure projects such as the state’s high speed rail initiative, Sacramento Bay Delta Conveyance, transit and freeway improvements in Los Angeles, water delivery and treatment projects around the state, new HOT lanes in the Bay Area and many other badly needed, job creating, economically beneficial projects. So will PECG succeed in feathering its own nest? Or will our elected officials place the interest of the general public ahead of the self-interests of the Caltrans employees union?
We shall see.