Timothy B. Clark | Government Executive

The Tower Bridge links Sacramento with West Sacramento. imging / Shutterstock.com
The Tower Bridge links Sacramento with West Sacramento. imging / Shutterstock.com

When California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new law on Sept. 29 to facilitate infrastructure financing, he gave hope to people in the Golden State and beyond that local governments would pick up where constrained state and federal budgets have failed to meet enormous needs for road, transit, water, sewer and many other projects.

The law, S.B. 628, is expected to revitalize the practice of tax-increment financing in California—a means of generating revenue based on projections of higher property values and taxes arising from long-term property development following in the wake of infrastructure construction. It lowers voter-approval thresholds and expands the range of infrastructure projects eligible for support. If communities embrace the new statute, billions of dollars in new financing will become available.

Last year, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimated U.S. infrastructure funding needs of $3.6 trillion through the end of the decade, with funding streams expected to produce only $2 trillion. Another study, just released by the International Monetary Fund reports that infrastructure quality in the United States has been declining since 2006, and now ranks behind that of other major countries: Germany, France, Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom. The study asserts that the time is right for a major infrastructure push.

In this country, “the national consensus on infrastructure has broken and a new framework, and new institutional arrangements, are needed,” says Mark Pisano, a professor of the practice of public administration at the University of Southern California and a force behind the new state law. Read more