Every time a new budget agreement is passed, there’s a lot of talk about “Kicking the Can Down the Road.” I’ve long wondered: who exactly is The Can? And which road?
After considerable street-level reporting, I caught up with The Can at a gas station just off I-10 near the Arizona border. A transcript of our conversation follows.
Q: It’s a pleasure to meet you. How are you doing?
THE CAN: How do you think I’m doing? It’s hot here, man. And you may have noticed I’m a can and I’m made of metal. So you take this summer heat, and combine it with $1 billion in accelerated tax withholding and $1.7 billion in education spending deferrals, and you’ll forgive me if I’m feeling pretty beat up.
Q: What do you make of the borrowing from local governments?
THE CAN: You know, I’m the state budget Can—I’m a big boy. I’m used to getting kicked. But when you take billions from the locals, you’re kicking little cans in every city and county. With the state taking transportation money, those cans are in for a bumpy ride as they go down the road. Potholes hurt like hell. So mark my words: Some of them local cans are gonna break. And who is going to clean up that mess?
Q: The governor said he held out this long because he didn’t want to kick you down the road again. He wanted to balance the budget for real this time so he could move onto other issues, like water.
THE CAN: Whenever I feel bad about being the budget can, I always remember my Central Valley uncle, the Water Bottle, and feel a lot better about myself. That dude’s whole world has dried up on him. As for the Austrian — please. I read once that his legs were his weakness when he was a bodybuilder, but I don’t believe it. He’s a first-class can kicker.
Q: At least we don’t have to pay bills with IOUs.
THE CAN: IOUs are a mixed bag for us cans. Yes, the whole concept is big kick of us. But when no one has any real cash, it’s good for my cousins the Soup Cans. They’re in heavy demand now.
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