While snow created road closures
in the Antelope Valley today, California’s top financial officials unanimously voted to freeze $3.8 billion in financing on roads, levees, and school and housing construction projects throughout California.
The decision comes after a continued political stalemate over how to close a record budget shortfall threatened to deplete California’s cash.
“California’s fiscal house is burning down,” said Treasurer Bill Lockyer in a statement. ”The people still wait for their elected leaders to pull them out of the fire, stop the blaze and rebuild the house on a solid, lasting foundation. Until that happens, the infrastructure work so vital to getting our economy back on track will lie crippled.”
The cuts may also impede the state’s ability to raise funds by selling bonds, and according to officials, may cost tens of thousands of jobs in a state already hurting from the collapse of the housing market.
Among the public works projects to be postponed or idled is the carpool lane on the 405 North Freeway between the 10 and 101 freeways and $373 million in repairs and overcrowding relief for Southern California schools, according to state agencies.
A delay on another project will leave judges courtless at an appeals courthouse in Santa Ana. The lease of their current court runs out in the spring, and the new coourthouse was suppose to be completed by then, according to a court official.
School districts that have already singed construction projects will be legally liable for the costs, causing education officials to fear repercussions and lawsuits from contractors and architects.
Governor Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said in a statement: “It’s outrageous that Republicans and Democrats would continue to play politics while tens of thousands of hard-working Californians face the possibility of being laid off this holiday season. Californians have seen enough politics and posturing from the Legislature, it’s time for them to negotiate and reach a compromise.”
Yesterday, Democrats were unable to pass bills to cut $7 billion of spending while raising $11.3 billion with higher taxes. The tax hike would have increased taxes on retail sales, oil production, and alcoholic beverages, similar to those backed by Schwarzenegger and blocked by the Republicans in the state legislature.
The Republicans, although in the minority, still have enough power and votes to prevent a two-thirds vote needed to pass a budget.