The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

February 9, 2010
No 'New Deal' for California

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg came calling this morning on the Bee's editorial board to pitch a 27-bill package designed to replenish California's beleaguered economy with 140,000 jobs.

Some of the ideas are intriguing, some are recycled, and some are problematic.

They include accelerating some infrastructure spending, notably the proposed high-speed rail line from Anaheim to San Francisco through the San Joaquin Valley. There's a bill to take $25 million from a rail bond issue and use it for worker training at community colleges, along with other proposals to shift around housing and education money. The plan would clean energy projects for industry and homeowners alike.

The proposals would require only simple majorities to pass, avoiding the two-thirds hurdle that hamstrings more sweeping budget and tax proposals.

But what struck this newcomer to California was his admission of how modest "Agenda 2010" really is. Given the depth of the economic downturn, one might expect a more ambitious plan to get Californians back to work.

Even if all the bills are approved and signed - by no means a sure thing - it would take one to two years in Steinberg's estimation to produce the jobs. And even with a multiplier effect, according to the California Research Bureau's "back of the envelope" analysis, it would still leave nearly 2 million on the unemployment rolls.

The relatively low bar is by design, Steinberg says. "I'm wary of over-promising and under-delivering," the Sacramento Democrat said. That cycle is one reason why people are so frustrated with state government, he argued.

"People want to see something tangible," Steinberg said, adding, "This isn't the end, but it's the beginning."

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco and Steinberg's wingman for the presentation, seconded the argument. Pointing to a portrait of President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the opposite wall, he asserted that a "New Deal"-sized economic stimulus is the province of the federal government, and that the state has far fewer tools at its disposal.

"This is doable," Leno said of the plan.

For more details on the proposals, read The Bee's story here, and come back to www.sacbee.com/opinion in the morning to see the editorial board's take on them.

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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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