In their commentary on Orange County's future Mark Baldassare and Cheryl Katz say: "Measure M sales tax transportation projects already in progress throughout the county are a model for what the Clinton Administration is proposing--stimulating the economy through construction projects and investing public funds in the infrastructure to improve economic prospects for the future."
Please, don't misuse the success of Measure M to justify federal infrastructure construction projects. Measure M is a fine model for local projects, but it has little in common with federal taxes and expenditures.
Measure M is purely a local project. Local management almost always responds to the people more accurately than federal government. In Orange County, we have an especially competent transportation staff under local control.
Voters were told, neighborhood by neighborhood, what transportation improvements would be provided by Measure M. Significant safeguards (including audits and a citizens' oversight committee) were included in the measure to guarantee that the money would be spent exactly as promised. Federal proposals include no such safeguards.
Orange County voters, not elected officials, approved Measure M, confident that the money would be spent on useful, desirable, locally beneficial projects. How many federal or state projects could pass the test of a direct vote of the people? If they couldn't, why should they be approved by the Congress?
Members of Congress may be noble individuals, but as a group, they have a pork-barrel mentality. To win reelection, they must cause federal money to be spent in their districts, regardless of the merits of the projects. In Measure M campaign surveys, we found voters to be distrustful of this kind of political decision-making. Californians send far more money to other states than we get back in federal programs. Do we really want more federal projects under those circumstances? In contrast, every cent of Measure M money is raised and spent right here in Orange County, safe from Washingtonian deal-making.
Proud as I am of Measure M, it's a bit of a stretch to claim that it (or a comparable federal project) stimulates the economy. Money injected into the economy by infrastructure construction projects must first be taken from the economy by taxation, or must be added to the ponderous governmental debt that we're leaving to our children and grandchildren. Generally, it seems better to stimulate the economy by leaving as much money as possible in the hands of consumers, taxing and spending only the minimum necessary to provide essential infrastructure improvements.
Although I disagree with their citation of Measure M as a model for federal projects, I concur with Mr. Baldassare and Ms. Katz that an economic summit would be useful. Partnership 2010, a coalition of business, government, and education leaders working to develop and implement a strategic plan for Orange County's economic growth, can provide the structure for such a summit.
REED L. ROYALTY
San Juan Capistrano