California Governor Jerry Brown, presenting his revised state budget to reporters in Los Angeles on Tuesday, warned that California my be underwater in the future–not because of his budget, but because glaciers in Antarctica will collapse and sea levels will rise four feet over the next 200 years.
Brown cautioned, “If that happens, the Los Angeles airport’s going to be underwater. So is the San Francisco airport.” As for the San Onofre nuclear power plant: “You’re going to have to move all that … That’s billions, if not tens of billions. Luckily, we can take a few years.”
Brown’s comments, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, were triggered by two studies released on Monday which asserted that a slow-motion collapse of glaciers in Antarctica has begun.
Brown dismissed critics of his costly high-speed rail project, likening them to critics of Abraham Lincoln’s plan to build the intercontinental railroad during the Civil War. He barked, “People would say, ‘How the hell are you going to do that?’ Well, they did it.” He also brought up critics of the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Area Rapid Transit system, and the Panama and Suez canals.
Brown’s $156.2 billion spending proposal for the new fiscal year is coming under fire from Democrats who feel he has cut too much social service spending, and some resent him taking money from the state’s greenhouse gas reduction program and channeling it toward his high-speed rail project.
Brown also dismissed criticism of his new budget from his GOP challengers, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks and former banker Neel Kashkari of Laguna Beach.
Alluding to California’s two previous governors, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democrat Gray Davis, he added, “Two governors left town with those big red lines down there. I have to tell you, I’m going to be very compassionate, but I’m going to do my best to leave town in the black, not the red, and that then forces a number of tough decisions,” according to the Times.
Brown’s supposed surplus hides some hard facts: according to Forbes in July 2013, unfunded pension and medical liability were not included in Brown’s last budget. That debt amounted to roughly $27 billion, and was siphoned off to pay California’s Unemployment Insurance Fund. Forbes reported:
Of course, California has far greater debts than that. One study showed that California governments are over $1 trillion in debt. Most of that is in the form of unfunded pension and medical liabilities owed to state employees. California’s Legislative Analyst told Brown and the Democrat-run legislature to increase the contributions to the state’s teacher’s pension fund by a paltry $4.5 billion to address its announced $73 billion short fall.
Update: An aide to the governor has corrected his claim that LAX will have to be moved, the Los Angeles Times reports:
“The governor misspoke about LAX,” said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the Brown administration.
Environmental officials for Los Angeles World Airports, the operator of LAX, said the airport has an elevation of more than 120 feet. “A 4-foot rise in sea level,” they said, “should have minimal impact on airport operations.”