Welcome to June. As we prepare to close the fiscal year and get ready for a new one, we recognize that a lot of good things have happened and also that there are many questions in front of us.
First, let’s be thankful for the good things. As a district, we’ve been instrumental in helping the state obligate more than 102 Recovery projects, amounting to $1.06 billion statewide. Some projects, like the northbound I-405 HOV lane from I-10 to U.S. 101, whose groundbreaking is mentioned in this issue, have begun and are putting people to work already. Most of the projects that will start creating jobs for people in California will begin in late June through the end of July. We’ll see a lot of projects go into construction both from Caltrans and the cities and counties we work with. So we are doing a lot to help create jobs.
And because of that, there are a lot more things we need to do. Certainly there’s a concern for the future as many people, like me, get older. We need people coming up behind us who can replace us. Not just here in the office with engineering – we do outreach there—but also out in the field. To that end, we had a great Construction Career Awareness day on May 7. We are also refining our Construction skills by participating in construction partnering seminars. Both of these efforts are discussed in Inside 7.
We intend to continue boosting awareness of the construction jobs that are so important to the State of California.
We are able to offer those jobs because we’ve been fortunate in the last State bond sales to raise enough money to keep our Prop 1B- funded transportation projects moving forward. At this time, we have enough funds to continue work on the jobs currently under construction through March of 2010.
There’s another bond sale coming up in September that’s very important because it will determine whether or not we will be able to move forward with the projects we are preparing now. And every six months after that the State will continue to sell bonds, which will be the basis for funding our projects.
We have a lot of work to do and it’s urgent that we continue to perform at our maximum capacity. We’re fortunate in that the Governor’s office recognizes how vital our jobs are. We are all aware of the six bond measures that were put in front of the voters Tuesday, May 19. Five of those, all that would have raised taxes, received a tremendous “thumbs down.” One received nearly unanimous approval—to disallow pay increases to elected officials in times of budget turmoil.
The Governor’s response to the currently-estimated $24 billion budget deficit was to… leave us alone. For now, his attention is turned to cuts in other departments because he knows that the work that you do generates the jobs needed to help bring us out of this recession. Plus, you’ve shown through your commitment to program delivery, to getting environmental documents completed, delivering right-of-way, getting plans out to construction, finishing construction projects and doing so efficiently that Caltrans is a cost-effective department.
Now, obviously that’s just the beginning. We have to see what will come out as the Governor continues to meet with the Legislature and they come to an agreement on how to close this $24 billion gap as we go into the next fiscal year.
Certainly we face potential impacts: the Legislature is looking at cutting money out of Prop 42, as well as some additional furloughs, lengthening the existing furloughs, and possible pay cuts. All of those are things are just proposals at this time. You need to be aware that the administration in Sacramento totally supports the work you do and we’ll just have to see what comes out of this.
As long as you continue to do the great work that you are doing and interact with the communities like the Arlington Garden and the visionary Park 101 concept, featured in this issue, you’re doing everything you can do to help improve the economy and Caltrans’ position. .
I’m going to continue to do my best to keep you informed as things happen. I’ve been meeting with supervisors to give them as much information as I can and I will instruct them to share that information with you so that you will be as up-to-date as possible regarding this rapidly-changing budget situation. And we’ll work together as we always do to make this a better California.