President Obama is visiting Northern California today to talk about his budget. It'd be nice if he could take a look at some of the state's crumbling roads, bridges and other infrastructure -- because they represent a missed opportunity.
A new report from the non-partisan New America Foundation (full disclosure: I'm a fellow there though I did not participate in this report) on the the president's stimulus legislation explains how that opportunity was missed. In short, the stimulus, for all the hundreds of billions of spending, devoted less than $100 billion to rebuilding infrastructure. With states and local governments cutting back their own budgets, that spending wasn't nearly enough to offset the diminished California resources for infrastructure.
This was particularly true in California. The report notes (and the accompanying chart shows):
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"For example, the decline in highway spending by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) in 2008-2009 was far more than the Recovery Act funds appropriated to Caltrans during the same year. Caltrans had to make significant cutbacks in the budget from fiscal year 2005-2006 to fiscal year 2008-2009 primarily due to a loss of revenue. The state budget was also reduced because of a fall in reimbursements from local government transportation projects that Caltrans performed. Local governments too, suffered from a loss of revenue. Relative to the decline in spending at the state level, the Recovery Act made up for only a small amount. Furthermore, this decline in funding does not compensate for the decline in local government infrastructure spending. In sum, the Recovery Act probably did not improve the state of California’s infrastructure, but at best helped only to mitigate its decline."
The full report, which includes a couple interesting graphics, is here.