But they have a problem: gas tax revenues are legally earmarked to be spent on - surprise! - transportation issues. The Lege, however, sees an opportunity to plug some financial holes without having to do any actual work - all they have to do is suspend the transportation requirement, or "borrow" the funds.
I have a suggestion for our brilliant legislators: you have a surplus in transportation funds. How about fixing some roads? Upgrading some bridges? How many bridges and overpasses in California are in the same bad state as the one that collapsed last year in Minneapolis? Do you even know how many??
We need the infrastructure repairs - many roads are in a disastrous condition. Fixing roads involves hiring people for construction jobs, which would put money back into local economies.
The Assembly's position on this is pretty much summed up by this quote:
Well, Mr. Laird, I thought that was why we paid all you legislators the big bucks. You're expected to make difficult decisions, and frankly, I thought you were expected to run the state on the money you know will come in, not on the money you think might come in if everything goes well and the economy keeps going up.
"This will be a huge issue because there aren't many moving parts of the budget that are moving up in revenue," said Assemblyman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, chairman of the Budget Committee.
While as a matter of public policy it makes most sense to keep gasoline sales tax receipts for transportation projects, "we have an $8 billion hole. And if the governor is proposing cutting dental care for adults in California, how does that weigh?" Laird said.
If the California Legislature will quit playing prima donna and devote some actual energy and thought to the process called "budgeting" (which most of us mortals have to do all the time), maybe we can get to a point where a drop in the economy won't cause the state to leap immediately to cut health care for poor people and their children. We might have to make do with a lower level of services in general, but if that level were stable, it would be a whole lot better than we have now.