The Best Budget Solution

Now that the speakership tussle appears amicably concluded, the Capitol can return to its daily routine of resolving weighty policy matters, such as the budget. 

Speaking of weighty, it was a nice showing of fiscal restraint by Legislative Analyst Elizabeth G. Hill who graciously cut back on the size of her budget analysis, affectionately known as the “fat book.” Although by no means svelte, the fat book shed a fair amount of poundage this year. (Thousands of trees sigh with relief.) 

As usual, the now zaftig book is chock full of smart policy suggestions and strategies for erasing California’s remaining $8 billion or so of fiscal yuckyness. And, as usual, the politicians who sling the budget together will largely ignore those sound policy proposals. 

Not to shave the chunky book down to Kate Moss size but there is a budget solution that is both practical and political. It ought to be since it was the brainchild of two of the Capitol’s more gifted staffers.  

It’s such a no-brainer everybody is going to kick themselves because they didn’t think of it first. It’s such a no-brainer. Ready? 

Naming rights for the Capitol. 

Simple and smart. Done correctly — way lucrative. Way. Lucrative. 

Clearly there’s a market: 

Minute Maid Park in Houston. Lowe’s Motor Speedway near Charlotte, Bank One Ballpark in Arizona, American Airlines Center in Dallas, Oracle Arena in Oakland, Target Center in Minneapolis, AT&T Park in San Francisco (formerly Pac Bell and SBC Park), FedEx Forum in Memphis, Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Delta Center – Home of the Utah Jazz, Dell Diamond in Round Rock Texas, Toyota Center in Houston, Sacramento’s own Arco Arena. 

To name but a few other proud sponsors: Bell South. PETCO Tropicana, Coors, Anheuser-Busch, Applebee’s, Qualcomm, Edward Jones, Gillette, Pizza Hut, Home Depot, Red Bull. Verizon, Izod. 

If there’s an edifice with space for a name, there are scads of big money corporations willing to pay. 

This is from an ESPN 2002 report on the subject so prices must be even higher now. 

American Airlines pays $6.5 million per e pluribus annum for the privilege of logo-a-go-go at the American Airlines Arena and will continue to do so until 2031. That would be a hair under $150 million still owed. 

Bank of America kicks down $7 million large to plaster its red-and-blue mug around the stadium of the Carolina Panthers. Edward Jones is no slouch at $2.65 million for the St. Louis Lambs. Invesco Field, formerly Mile High Stadium, gets a beefy $6 million cash infusion each year for the new name. Heinz drops $2.9 million for naming rights at the Pittsburgh Steelers home field. 

This is exactly what Elizabeth G. Hill is always raving about – ongoing problems need ongoing solutions. What can be more ongoing that a contract that has somebody paying the state of California a several million bucks each year for 25 years? 

Attention Republicans: It’s not a tax increase, either. What epitomizes the glory of public-private partnership more than the Jesse M. Unruh Hearing Room Sponsored by Seagram’s? 

Tom McClintock will weep the same way he does when they shoot Old Yeller, overcome by the sheer laissez faire majesty of the idea. 

In the right hands, California’s shortfall could be transformed into a burgeoning reserve. 

There would be naming rights for the Capitol itself. The big hitters would go after that. Toyota, AT&T, Pepsi, Ameriquest and their ilk from the pediment of the corporate world, would likely slug it out for the Big Billboard. 

But what a rise in profile that exposure would give a smaller company like Quicken Loans or Dick’s Sporting Goods of Commerce City, Colorado. 

How much would Verizon pay to prevent AT&T from affixing its name to California’s Capitol? Plenty. 

A bidding war between Home Depot and Lowe’s? Sky’s the limit, baby. 

But that’s just the beginning. 

Naming rights for hearing rooms. 

Imagine the money spilled by industries regulated by the Senate Governmental Organization Committee as they vie for the chance to sponsor Room 3191. 

Morongo versus Pechanga. Barona versus Sycuan versus Hollywood Park versus Santa Anita versus Diageo versus Anheuser-Busch versus the paycheck lenders and the trash haulers. 

The director of Finance would soil himself over the haul from that auction. Even better, Senate GO only meets in 3191 the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. 

Another lucky winner can get naming rights for the first and third Tuesdays when 3191 hosts the Senate Energy, Utilities & Communications Committee. That could be nearly as lucrative. 

Sempra trying to outbid PG&E who is trying to outbid Edison who feels the breath of the phone pholks on its neck who, in turn, are being outbid by the cable guys, who can never be counted out. Don’t forget Calpine — back from insolvency and itching to ride high again. 

Picture every Tuesday when the Assembly Health Committee meets: 

Room 4202 – Innovation and Integrity, Thanks Abbott Laboratories. 

Room 4202 – A Healthy Place. Blue Cross of California. 

Room 4202 – Where the Access Is Easy, Thanks to Access Dental. 

Selecting the proper corporate sponsor for the Governor’s Office might be ticklish. Lots of good exposure for the highest bidder, though. Tons of tourists get their photos taken beside the CHP officer and flag beneath the fake gold lettering. 

Probably for PR sake it should be a California headquartered company.  Maybe family oriented like Disney or healthy like Grimmway Farms. What’s not to love about Bunny-Luv carrots? 

Sales options are probably not quite as robust for the lieutenant governor’s office down the hall what with all the cobwebs around the door. Maybe the manufacturer of the two lonely stanchions there in the hallway could be persuaded to step up. 

Mustn’t overlook restrooms. Hair care producers, shaver makers, Weyerhaeuser, Georgia-Pacific, Charmin, Kleenex would all be naturals.  

What self-respecting security system maker wouldn’t spring for some signage near the metal detectors? 

The Rotunda of California’s Capitol – A Hallmark Moment. 

The coup de grace is going to require a modest initial investment by the state but, over the years, the expenditure will return lavish dividends. 

Luxury boxes in the Senate and Assembly galleries. 

Skyboxes would be a double winner. Not only does their leasing raise a significant pile of dough but also, logistically, they would finally clear the lobbyists out of those hallways behind the chambers. 

The temperature back there from the wall-to-wall lobbyists when the Assembly and the Senate are cranking rivals that of the sun. And on a hot July day, the place can get fairly rank-and-file. 

With skyboxes, not only will the lobbyists be out of the hallway but they’ll be able to look down on the proceedings from the comfort of their masters’ sumptuously appointed suites. 

To say nothing of the trickle down effect. Increased catering opportunities for the restaurant in the basement. More customers for local beer and wine distributors. New cocktailing and hostess jobs. 

Game. Match. Budget crisis solved. Economy strengthened 

No offense to Elizabeth G. Hill but just leave the-not-quite-so-fat book on the shelf. Don’t even bother to lift the cover. No longer necessary.


Filed under: Venting


  1. I am troubled by the fact that Mr. Lucas’ (or is that Lucas’s… I forget)graphic at the top of his column. While I can pick out most of the pictures and at least guess at the significance of the choices, I am befuddled by some of the thematic elements of the banner. Pray tell, Mr. Lucas. Do not leave us in the dark.

    Also, I strongly encourage you to also add a mannikin or two. If necessary, send Lassie for help.


    Comment by Lucas Group E — 3.05.2008 @ 10:01 am

  2. He’s got a mannequin in there.

    Isn’t that Gray Davis on the left?

    Comment by NoOneInParticular — 3.05.2008 @ 10:19 am

  3. …has Jim Rockford been reduced to sliced liver?

    Comment by E2 — 3.06.2008 @ 9:53 am

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