Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s New Year’s budget promises California a happy, handsome future with $222 billion in public works projects. But it is weak on just how that future will be delivered, and whether he is prepared to listen to his legislative partners – even if it means changing his position. We all know the state desperately needs new infrastructure investment for schools, highways, rail lines, urban parks and recreational facilities, port improvements and levees. We also know that after four dismal years, our state’s economy is finally improving, producing record profits and enhanced tax receipts and other revenues. Schwarzenegger’s 10-year time frame for these projects is not unreasonable. However, his plan relies too much on bonded indebtedness to finance these public works, and not enough on tax revenues. The state’s nonpartisan legislative analyst criticized this part of the plan, saying it “moves the state in the wrong direction” when it comes to bridging its long-standing deficit problems. In addition to public works, the governor’s proposed budget also cuts services to the segment of the population that struggles the hardest – those least able to provide for themselves in an economy increasingly characterized by “haves” and “have-nots.” While the budget proposes slicing aid programs and eliminating the CalWORKs cost-of-living increases for the less fortunate, which erase $200 million in expenditures, that is just one-thousandth of what the governor wants to spend on infrastructure. Is the pain these cuts inflict on our working poor and unemployed and their families really worth such a price? In his State of the State address earlier this month, Schwarzenegger challenged the Legislature to address the state’s budget deficits. “Bring me your innovative ideas,” he said. “Work with me on a new proposal. Work with me to invest in California’s future growth and prosperity.” The governor signaled his desire to continue last year’s “year of reform” efforts in the quest for greater fiscal responsibility. For this to happen, the Legislature and the governor must work hand in hand. Certainly, the ideas are there. But since he won a historic recall election on promises to bring a bipartisan approach to some of the state’s most vexing problems, our governor has not spent enough time listening to our ideas. Last year, for instance, Schwarzenegger vetoed Assembly Bill 168, the Tax Expenditure Accountability Act, which I authored. The bill’s language was developed in consultation with the governor’s own former finance director, Tom Campbell, and his staff. It incorporated five years of work with advocates of good government. The bill would have empowered the governor to examine state expenditures – starting with hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits and exemptions enjoyed by corporations and big businesses – using a dynamic model to analyze their impacts on economic activity and job creation. Examining these credits, and the potential revenue gains or losses they generate, could improve our bond rating and save the state tens of millions of dollars – all without having to take the money out of the pockets of those in need. This year, he might want to reconsider that veto. The governor likes to talk, we all know. Maybe it isn’t too late for him to listen. Mark Ridley-Thomas, D-Los Angeles, represents the 48th District in the California Assembly. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!