Editorials

L.A. hits up the state for Olympic gold

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1984, the last time L.A. hosted the Olympics. The city wants financial guarantees from the state for its 2024 bid.
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1984, the last time L.A. hosted the Olympics. The city wants financial guarantees from the state for its 2024 bid. Associated Press file

You can buy a lot with $250 million. In California, $250 million would pay for nearly 25,000 children to get subsidized day care.

It would add 6,250 slots for in-state undergraduates at the University of California, and cover the marginal cost of keeping them there for four years, until graduation. It would cover a year’s basic wear and tear on facilities at the 23 California State University campuses.

It would buy new breakthrough drugs to treat hepatitis C for more than 2,900 Medi-Cal patients and prison inmates. Or cover California’s share of dismantling dams on the Klamath River and restoring critical salmon runs.

Or match Napster founder Sean Parker’s investment this week in cancer research. Or soften the bitter blow of this month’s income tax filing deadline with an In-N-Out lunch for every man, woman and child in California.

Instead, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon want to tie $250 million up in a contingency fund to cover potential revenue shortfalls should Los Angeles land the 2024 summer Olympics and end up in the red.

On Tuesday – with only Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, voting no and Sen. Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, absent due to health problems – the Senate Governmental Organization Committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of the idea.

We here in the capital bear no ill will for our glamorous southern sister. We were proud last year when the U.S. Olympic Committee chose California’s most famous city as the U.S. bid to host the 2024 games.

Both de León and Rendon, the respective leaders of the Senate and the Assembly, are from Los Angeles County. There’s no substitute for muscle, in politics as in sports.

Like Sen. Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado Hills, who noted his own past efforts to bring the winter games to Lake Tahoe, and who set aside his usual fiscal conservatism to join the “aye” votes, we thrill as much as the next sports fan at the feats of Olympians.

And we get that concerns over public funding guarantees were among the reasons Boston lost this honor before Los Angeles snagged it; the International and U.S. Olympic committees require proof in cold cash of state and civic commitment, and we surely don’t want the games to go to Paris, Rome or Budapest.

But $250 million? That’s a lot of public money.

Or as Vidak put it to a member of The Sacramento Bee editorial board when asked about his “no” vote: “The same folks that argued that we needed to hike health care taxes by over $1 billion to fund programs for the developmentally disabled now want to give the L.A. City Council a $250 million line of credit to try and run the Olympics. That’s just wrong.”

Both de León and Rendon, the respective leaders of the Senate and the Assembly, are from Los Angeles County. There’s no substitute for muscle, in politics as in sports.

Still, we’d be remiss not to suggest that perhaps Southern California counties should kick in a bit more of the state’s ante. After all, L.A.’s multiplier effect may not stretch all the way to, say, Lodi. And medals aren’t the only way to use gold.

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