And It All Came Tumbling Down

1207748693Ok, someone has to explain this to me. I spent part of the morning talking with friends who cover the State House, and they’re as confused as I am: How, exactly, will Gov. Deval Patrick justify spending $3.8 billion to fix some 411 bridges in the Commonwealth?

Oh, you haven’t heard? Well settle in, friends. The governor, god bless him, wants to repair our deteriorating bridges — a plan he’s announcing today during a speech at MIT. And anyone who regularly travels over the Longfellow probably won’t argue. But good intentions don’t always make for good government, especially when Massachusetts is running a $1 billion-plus deficit.

Put another way, when you look in your wallet and realize you’re not only flat broke, but that you also owe a lot of people a lot of money, how do you talk yourself into a spending spree? The answer is simple, of course: you find new lenders.

The governor, or at least his handlers, are already in full spin mode. Here’s what the Globe has:

The massive repair and reconstruction of bridges in virtually every corner of the state would create 23,000 direct construction jobs, according to a preliminary draft of the governor’s plan, which is significantly higher than the 5,000 employed at the height of the Big Dig.

The proposal will be introduced at a major speech this morning at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, the first economic outline Patrick will present since the Legislature defeated his plan to create tens of thousands of jobs by licensing three casinos around the state.

“He will talk about the need to invest in our infrastructure in order to maintain our competitiveness and grow our economy,” said Cyndi Roy, a Patrick spokeswoman who declined to comment further.

So, back to the point of how the governor plans on paying for all this: He’s going to float bonds over the next eight years. According to Globe, that would only increase our state debt, which “is already the highest per capita in the country.”

Of course, in order for any of this to actually happen, the proposal needs legislative approval. The last time the governor went to the legislature, hat in hand, I seem to remember it ending badly. Something about casinos or some such. And unless I’m mistaken, isn’t Speaker Sal DiMasi still King of the Hill? Why yes, I believe he is.

Oh yeah, this should go swimmingly.

“The governor has put forward a thoughtful proposal to help finance a reconstruction of the state’s bridges,” said David Guarino, spokesman for DiMasi, who was briefed on the proposal yesterday. But, he added, DiMasi will “fully analyze it and look at the financial impact it may have on our bond rating and future capital projects.”

Huh. Sounds a little like when DiMasi promised to “consider” the casino issue. But I’m sure the governor has nothing to worry about.