Should Caltrans Be Killed?

A Republican state senator from La Mesa named Joel Anderson has a suggestion for Gov. Jerry Brown: kill Caltrans, the state transportation agency, and turn over its responsibilities to local government. This move, Anderson tells the Union-Tribune, would show that the governor is serious about reducing the size of government.

This is a totally terrific idea, with a few caveats.

-There's no evidence that local governments will spend less money on salaries and benefits, as Anderson suggests would result from such a change. In fact, given the fact that salaries and benefits in California localities are among the highest in the country, such a move could produce more waste.

-Getting rid of Caltrans doesn't do much of anything to reduce the size of the general fund budget deficit, since Caltrans spending -- more than $12 billion -- comes from all kinds of different accounts. At best, by Anderson's own reasoning, $2 billion could be saved in Caltrans. I'm not sure how, but consider this: the state is short $26 billion, according to Gov. Brown.

-Caltrans has a strong recent record among state departments of completing projects on time and on budget.

-Anderson says that even if Brown were to kill Caltrans, he wouldn't commit to voting to put temporary tax extensions on a special election ballot. Since approximately $12 billion of Brown's budget proposal would come from there, that would leave a sizable hole in the budget.

Other than that, Anderson's idea really is terrific.

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