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Connecting California's Regions to the State and Each Other
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Volume III, Issue 2 - March 2002

Special Issue: The Governor'S Commission on Building for the 21st Century - A Final Report: "Invest for California"

Contents:

  1. Introduction to The Governor's Commission on Building for the 21st Century
  2. "Invest For California: Strategic Planning for California's Future Prosperity and Quality of Life"

I. Introduction to the Governor's Commission on Building for the 21st Century

We are pleased that the Commission's Final Report "Invest for California" at last has been released by the Governor. This is a remarkable public statement from a broadly diverse Commission of 48 Californians (business, labor, environmentalists, academics, state and local government, and civic leaders), led by Business, Transportation and Housing Secretary Maria Contreras-Sweet and Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante. As we reported in the September 2001 issue of CalRegions, CCRL (Nick Bollman and Trish Kelly, joined by Steve Levy of the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy) was privileged to act as a Strategic Adviser to the Governor's Commission on Building for the 21st Century from August 2000 to September 2001. We did so because planning for and investing in infrastructure is essential to the economic vitality and quality of life of every region of our state. This issue of CalRegions presents background on the Commission and a framework for understanding its work and next steps; and highlights from the Commission's Report. More information on the Commission and a copy of the Report can be found at: www.bth.ca.gov, or by mail, from the California Business and Transportation Agency, 980 9th Street, Suite 2450, Sacramento, CA 95814-2719.

How it happened.
Over its two and a half years of work, the full Commission met 14 times and its Committees (facilities, finance, natural resources, technology and transportation) met 46 times. Its final meeting was on June 27 2001. The Commission's deliberations drew upon the wisdom and expertise of countless authorities: state agency staff and the Governor's own staff, think tanks, universities, and independent scholars; and upon dozens of reports on infrastructure focused on California and/or other states.

What's next?
Many of the Commission's recommendations, including those urging major additional debt financing, could be adopted immediately. Many, such as the California Infrastructure Partnership, would require little investment but could have very substantial "leverage" impact. Others, because of the projected state budget deficit, will take longer. Even here, however, policies could be adopted, subject to future appropriations. Not everyone will agree with the recommendations, and they will be subject to healthy debate and honest disagreement. But, leaving aside specific recommendations, the Report signals that we have reached California's "moment of truth" on infrastructure planning and investment. After a long silence and terrible inaction, which allowed our infrastructure systems to deteriorate badly, and facing a future economic and population growth that seriously exacerbates our current inadequacies, in recent years the state has now begun to turn the corner, and never again can it be said that we didn't know what our needs are; that we didn't have viable options; nor that we didn't have substantial agreement on how to proceed.

What about the recession, the state budget deficit, and homeland security?
In the current situation, there is a necessary and understandable focus on short-term economic recovery strategies, on crucial decisions to close the state budget deficit, and planning for security. But we believe that the Commission would concur with the following admonitions:

  1. Keep the dialogue on growth and infrastructure needs alive through the recession, lest we face an even more serious challenge when we emerge from the down-cycle.
  2. Make continuing investment wherever possible, because every "hiccup" in our investment commitment causes further decay and deterioration of our infrastructure and thereby further damages our prospects for long-term economic prosperity. We cannot ignore our long-term needs because they might cause short-term discomfort (such as temporary tax increases to balance the budget and maintain our investment commitments).
  3. Link short-term spending and job-creation strategies to long-term infrastructure investment strategies. For example, if we want to create jobs, why not build schools? Off-the-shelf and other quickly implemented investments, while generally too late to counter the recession, can help ensure a solid recovery.
  4. Find and apply the synergies between "sustainable development," about which the Report is eloquent, and "homeland security," so new to our vocabulary. The best principles and practices of each are remarkably similar: foster stewardship, collaboration, and bipartisanship; share responsibility across the public, private and nonprofit/philanthropic sectors; plan well, and implement faithfully; use natural and financial resources efficiently; optimize self-sufficiency; leave no one behind; measure performance for continuous improvement; and build a new sense of community.

A "Call to Action."
Now that the Commission's Report is a matter of public record, it is up to the rest of us to create the sustained civic and political will that is essential to carry these ideas (and others) forward into action. We can do this by using the Report to jump-start statewide and regional dialogues on these issues; by making every effort to broaden the agreement on how to proceed; and by letting state and local policymakers know that bold and sustained action is required. The Report's "Call to Action" states:

"We, the members of the Governor's Commission on Building for the Twenty-first Century, call upon all Californians to help create and maintain the infrastructure we will need to support California's economic progress and quality of life for the next generation, and for generations to come. No one else will do it but us, and none of us can do it without each other. Join us."


II. The Commission Report: "Invest For California: Strategic Planning for California's Future Prosperity and Quality of Life"

The following are excerpts from the Executive Summary of "Invest for California: Strategic Planning for California's Future Prosperity and Quality of Life."

"Governor Gray Davis, the Legislature and the people of the State of California should be commended for the investments made in infrastructure during the past two and a half years. Recent investments-especially those for education, transportation, housing, parks, and water-are historic…. [But] we have been asked to analyze our State's needs and construct a framework for the State's future investments, absent political considerations. We must, therefore, say something that is almost never popular with those in political life, nor with the people who elect them: recent accomplishments are admirable, but the job is far from done. Our efforts must be sustained….

There have been many reports about infrastructure during the past two decades. They have all called attention to the importance of infrastructure and have documented our under investment across a wide range of needs. Yet, the problem of underinvestment remained unsolved as we approached the 21st Century. ……The Commission's work confirms the persistence and seriousness of our infrastructure deficit… In order for our quality of life to be improved and expanded to all Californians, there is no choice but to redouble our efforts and lay the groundwork for that prosperity. We can no longer live off the investment of past generations, for we will sacrifice not only today, but also the future of our children and grandchildren.

Too often, California is a place where teachers, nurses, police and firefighters struggle to find affordable housing for their families, where time spent in traffic rivals time spent at home, and where a majority of our power plants, schools, hospitals, and public buildings are growing old and desperately in need of repair. California will add 6 million jobs and 12 million people who will need at least 4 million new homes. This growth in population will come primarily from children born to existing families, a fact not yet understood by most Californians. For both today and tomorrow, energy is not the only area where we are "living on the edge"; there are other infrastructure challenges in waiting.

This Commission recognizes that infrastructure planning and investment is a shared responsibility for all Californians. While the State must play a leadership role, shared responsibility means that an effective investment strategy requires the efforts and coordinated planning of all of California's infrastructure investment partners- the federal, State and local governments, regional agencies, private and philanthropic sectors, and most importantly California's people… The Commission has set forth a vision and created guiding principles and investment criteria as a framework for its decision-making. The framework is grounded in simple, but traditional California values: continue, protect and improve our existing investments, and build smarter when creating new capacity to meet future needs.

The Commission developed a 20-year framework to guide our investments for the future. Our investment framework provides a staring point for the near term, but also guides our process for the long term. In developing this framework, we recognized that infrastructure needs will change, priorities will shift, and new technologies, practices and resources will become available to help us meet new challenges in ways we cannot yet imagine.

To establish current infrastructure investment priorities, the Commission focused on eight building blocks of California's future that merit particular attention: Educational Facilities, Energy, Housing, Land Use, Public Facilities, Technology, Transportation, and Water. Meeting our needs in these areas will require increased and sustained investment, better use of existing capacity, and better planning that recognizes the interdependence of infrastructure systems such as land use, housing and transportation. These investments will improve infrastructure services and efficiency and reduce costs over the lifespan of our facilities.

Although all of our infrastructure needs are important, some are so fundamental to our economy and quality of life and are under such severe strain, that they require immediate action. Therefore, the Commission recommends taking action on these particular needs:

  • A New State School Bond Measure
  • Statewide Energy Infrastructure Policy
  • Increased Housing Production
  • Local Financing Voter Approval At 55% For Transportation
  • Statewide Water Infrastructure Plan

The Commission determined that certain crosscutting reforms are required to fund, plan and integrate our long-term strategies across all infrastructure categories. Among the many options presented in the report, the Commission highlights and recommends:

  • A California Infrastructure Partnership
  • A California Infrastructure Fund
  • State-Local Finance Reform
  • Responsible Land Use in California's Communities

The Commission recognizes that these recommendations call for a commitment of resources well above the historic level of investment, but infrastructure financing may be easier than it might appear at first glance. California is the world's sixth largest economy. To spend an additional $100 billion on infrastructure over the next decade would require less than 1% of our annual income as a state. In addition, the responsibility of planning and financing California's infrastructure does not rest solely with the State. Rather, it is shared by the state and its partners, including regional and local agencies, the federal government, the private and philanthropic sectors.

A Call to Action
This report is not an end, it is a beginning, a chance to end the cycle of infrastructure deficits, a change to end the uncertainty about whether California will have enough housing, enough schools, enough water and enough transportation capacity for our residents and businesses. Adopting these and other recommendations will require a bold new spirit of partnership and commitment among all Californians. Only if we act now and act together, will we leave a legacy to our children and grandchildren worthy of the California Dream."