Santa Clara County is in financial trouble.
On July 25, the credit-rating firm Moody’s downgraded $143 million in lease revenue bonds backed by the county’s general fund two notches, from A1 to Aa2. “The downgrades reflect the county’s significantly weakened financial position, following three consecutive years of general fund deficits (2009-2011), and the limited prospects for rebuilding the county’s balance sheet in the current economic environment,” Moody’s said. It also cited the county’s high unemployment rate.
So it’s not totally crazy that the oversight committee created to wind down the county’s redevelopment agency decided to keep $30 million that was supposed to go to the 49ers stadium authority for a new sports complex. The school superintendent claims, “We need that money to balance our budget.”
The stadium authority is suing for the money and state Sen.Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara, says she’ll introduce legislation to force the committee to make the payment.
In 2010, when Santa Clara voters endorsed the stadium plan, it was called the Santa Clara Stadium Taxpayer Protection and Economic Progress Act. I doubt the Deficit Be Damned Act would have passed.
I hope other cities planning professional sports arenas — such as San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento — are paying attention.
Hoopla fades, but moolah is forever.
How losing could be a win
At first I thought Gov. Jerry Brown and our representatives were just tone-deaf when they asked voters to pay more in taxes and then endorsed the expensive high-speed rail project. But then they failed to put meaningful pension reform on the ballot. And gave staffers millions in raises. And found more than
$50 million stashed away in a department that had made $270,000 in shady vacation payouts.
As a voter, I was offended at how dumb these folks seem to think we are. That our elected officials could act with total disregard for even the appearance of competence and we’d give them more money was just infuriating. But what if it’s me who is underestimating them, and not the other way around?
The tax measure was necessary in order to assume $8.5 billion in income so we could have a balanced budget. It has served its purpose. Now, as our Democratic leaders seem determined to undermine public opinion on the matter, let us assume that the governor’s tax measure fails. If that were to happen, $6 billion in cuts, mostly to education, are set to go into effect.
All of a sudden, Mr. and Ms. Legislator become supremely important. They have the power to undo and change the cuts. Tasked with saving the children, these folks would be the most important people in the world to the deep-pocketed teachers unions and anyone else with a program to save. Campaign coffers would bulge and favors would fly.
While it is doubtful that this was the plan all along, like Mr. Magoo, our oblivious politicians might have just stumbled on to something genius — a way to win by losing.