California: Buddy, Can You Spare $7 Billion?

There has been so much financial turmoil in so many places, it’s hard to keep up with it all. BusinessWeek, whose cover language this week is the Pluto in Capricorn-inspired “The New Financial Ice Age,” recently ran a story on California’s financial problems. The headline was “California to Feds: Got a Spare $7 Billion?”

What’s going in on the Golden State? Well, transiting Saturn, the stern taskmaster, is conjuncting California’s natal Sun in hard-working, health-conscious Virgo. You don’t have to be a California Psychic to figure out that’s going to result in some belt-tightening around those very toned California abs.

You can look at California’s chart here, courtesy of Astrodienst.

Back in June, I wrote about the imminent conjunction of Saturn in Virgo to the California Sun, which is also being opposed by Uranus in Pisces. I predicted everything from increased wildfire activity to possible unrest among Golden State residents.

This time, though, I have a prescription for Saturn in Virgo. Here’s my solution to California’s fiscal woes. So many people, Americans and Mexicans alike, want to enter the Golden State that I think California should set up toll booths at its borders and collect a fee from everybody who wants to come in.

Why does everybody want to come in? No, it’s not just to enjoy California’s splendid natural beauty and laid-back lifestyle and to catch a glimpse of a movie star or two. (Remember, this is a state where movie stars like Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger have been elected governor.)

With a Virgo Sun, California’s main attraction is work. According to The World Factbook published by the CIA, if California were an independent nation, it would have had the 10th largest economy in the world in 2007.

Before you dismiss the idea of tolls to enter California, consider this: New York City essentially does the same thing by charging fees on tunnels and bridges leading into the Big Apple. For example, it costs $8 to cross the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey into New York. (No toll going out.)

Californians will hate me for my next idea: tolls on highways. I recently drove from New York to Washington D.C. and was astounded at how much the little state of Delaware (represented by Senator Joe Biden) manages to extract from you for driving a few miles on Route 95.

I used to do this drive on a regular basis back in the Eighties. Driving through Delaware was free then. Now, I think it’s $9 or more. Forgive the sloppy reporting here. If I wanted to Google this morning, I’m sure I could find the exact toll and the exact number of miles you’re on Route 95 through Delaware. But I want to help California solve its economic woes instead.

I hope my commenter SFMike, who writes the Civic Center blog, will weigh in on these civic matters. I’m sure there are some highways in California that already have tolls, but I’m thinking of Interstate 10 running from Los Angeles into Arizona.

Maybe “the 10” needs to become a toll road. I know that truckers would be hurt because this is a main thoroughfare for them to transport produce out of California, but desperate times require desperate measures.

I’m sure there are some truckers or libertarians out there who are going to explain why states can’t or shouldn’t be allowed to collect tolls on interstate highways. In advance, I will tell you that it’s done in the Northeast on Interstate 95. Perhaps 95 has been declared a state road for the stretch that runs through New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. I plead ignorance.

That’s what’s great about blogging. Somebody out there who is a taxation or federal highway freak will write in and set me straight.

So to steal a line from that great California film The Graduate: “I just wanna say one word to you. Are you listening? Tolls.”

P.S. If you click on the “plastics” clip from The Graduate, you’ll be amazed that even in the revolutionary times of 1967, people still had manners. When Ben (Dustin Hoffman) turns away from talking to the women, he says, “Excuse me.” When the plastics man says, “Ben,” he replies, “Mr. McGuire.”

How many times have you been at a party when someone you were talking to was whisked away and never bothered to say, “Excuse me” or “I’ll catch up with you later”? Geez, I’m not turning into my mother. I’m turning into my grandmother!

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6 comments on “California: Buddy, Can You Spare $7 Billion?

  1. Great. The huge threat these days is privatization of roads/bridges/water supplies/sewage systems — already everything built for the common good in this country is being sold off to the highest foreign bidder. Turn the greed monsters loose and we’ll all be paying out the nose to turn on the tap. Maybe I’ve swallowed too much faux-conservative crap these last few decades, but I don’t think the California government is agile enough to start capitalizing on its assets. Delaware is dinky. And wily to boot.

  2. Gian Paul — Thanks for persisting on Kashmir. No doubt the situation is quite serious. This comment may be integrated with your post on Kashmir, which I still am tinkering with. Sorry for the delay, but I had the California chart in my files already. As a financial type, you can appreciate the temptation to go after the “low-hanging fruit.” — Monica

  3. Up here, not a single discussion of Thruway tolls goes past without dozens of angry letters to the editor reminding everyone that once the original bonds were paid off, the Thruway was “supposed” to be free, and that any continuation of tolls is some kind of scam (possibly socialist, possibly communist). (And in this case, the toll was part of the deal to build it as part of the Interstate system.) Like once it was built, it was just going to maintain itself forever.

    California, though, is a bit of an island on this as it is on a lot of other issues. Most of the people it would be charging tolls to are Californians — unlike states in the Northeast that get significant revenue from trucks and cars that are just passing through (watch how many trucks heading south on the Thruway are from Quebec, for instance). So tolling their roads might just be a shift in method rather than a shift in sources, and not give them a huge benefit. I’m sure Delaware did the same analysis and figured out that a huge percentage of the people making that trip (and for whom they are maintaining the road) aren’t from Delaware, so it makes sense to toll the road.

  4. Carl — Down here, all the articles about the Thruway are pointing out that traffic is down about 10% year over year from last year. But, of course, it wasn’t the tolls keeping folks off the highway. It was the high gas prices of last summer. You make some excellent points, as always. Thanks for writing! — Monica

  5. I just want to be able to take a train (or a series of them) from San Francisco to Palm Springs, and I’d love for California’s car culture to turn into a public transport culture, but I’ll probably be dead before that happens. As for California being in debt, Schwarzenegger is as venal and clueless as Bush. He’s been balancing the state budget with huge loans from the financial industry since he’s been in office, and now it looks like that sleight-of-hand is going to be crumbling any day now. Jeesh.

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