California's Gov. Newsom inherits steaming load of scandal from Jerry Brown

California's Gov. Gavin Newsom has inherited a steaming load of financial scandals from Jerry Brown regarding high-speed rail and the Oroville Dam.

Gavin Newsom is the first Democrat California governor to follow a sitting Democrat governor in over a century.  Newsom campaigned as an ally of Gov. Jerry Brown by trumpeting how Brown eight years earlier had overcome a crisis projected by the non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office to included a $6.4-billion current budget deficit, a $19-billion deficit for the following year, and another five years of $20-billion-plus deficits.

Newsom praised Brown for using tax increases and spending cuts to dig out of a severe budget crises.  But since his November election, the San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury, and Sacramento Bee have reported that the 51-year-old Newsom is distancing himself from the 80-year-old Brown's image as the voice of moderation, to launch spending increases to support single-payer health care and universal pre-kindergarten.

The real friction between the former governor and his lt. governor protégé involves the shocking $7-billion miss in budget revenue over the last two months, coupled with rising evidence of potential incompetence, financial mismanagement, and fraud regarding Brown's drastic underfunding of billions of dollars for infrastructure spending to achieve constitutionally mandated balanced budgets over his last eight years in office.

Newsom was aware that the American Society of Civil Engineers awarded California its booby prize in each of the last three years as the worst state in the nation for infrastructure maintenance and improvements.  Despite being the most populous state, California has ranked 49th for infrastructure spending on a per capita basis.  ASCE's latest report estimates California's accumulated spending deficit for dams, waterways, flood control, roads, bridges, seaports, and tunnels exceeds $65 billion.

Newsom did campaign for more infrastructure spending.  But just days after the election, the California state auditor released a devastating analysis blaming California high-speed rail for a number of state problems: "Flawed Decision Making and Poor Contract Management Have Contributed to Billions in Cost Overruns and Delays in the System's Construction."

The auditor found $2.2 billion in CHSR cost overruns, despite the agency "being aware of the risks" associated with the layout of the 500-mile system.  Highlighting terms of CHSR's $3.5-billion federal grant–mandated completion of a 500-mile system by 2022, the auditor warned, "Missing the deadline could expose the State to the risk of having to pay back as much as $3.5 billion in federal funds."

The Sacramento Bee reported earlier this month that a lawsuit for "derogatory treatment" filed by female Department of Water Resources included evidence:

Officials of the Oroville Dam stole equipment, cooked financial books to conceal wrongdoing, destroyed evidence and fostered a toxic culture of sexual and racial harassment that included slurs and nooses hung where a black worker would find them.

California planned to shift its $2-billion liability for damages associated with the 2017 near collapse of America's tallest dam, which forced the emergency evacuation of 188,000 downstream residents to the FEMA national disaster relief budget.  But plaintiff expert affidavits from U.C. Davis sociology professor Kimberlee Shauman and Cal State Sacramento management professor Amy Mickel contend that the state is liable for the "toxic workplace culture could have factored into the spillway failure."

Newsom tried to get ahead of the scandals by announcing to the California state Legislature on February 18 that he was voluntarily killing 73 percent of the system.  

But within 24 hours, federal railroad administrator Ronald Batory issued a Notice of Intention to Terminate Agreement effective March 5.  Batory stated that due to failures and defaults, the FRA intended to "de-obligate" a $928,620,000 disbursement and expects to recover $2.5 billion in grant disbursements, plus interest on the non-performing funds.

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