I grew up in Massachusetts, and recently I’ve been reading stories about government projects in my home state that would be familiar to anyone who follows government in California. They deal with cost overruns of major public programs. Let’s be fair and say there are cost overruns in private as well as public efforts, as anyone who has remodeled a house knows.

However, what made me take notice of these cost overrun stories is that one had to do with a big infrastructure project and the other had to do with the Bay State’s effort to implement a universal healthcare system.

California is involved in many infrastructure projects, but may get behind a massive proposal if the voters approve Proposition 1 on the November ballot to support a $10-billion high-speed rail. And, anyone following California politics knows that last year was supposed to be the Year of Health Care Reform. The governor’s pet project was derailed, but perhaps only temporarily. Rumor has it he wants to resuscitate the program as soon as the budget is resolved—whenever that occurs.

Thinking about these California proposals I read these recent reports about Massachusetts with trepidation. That big infrastructure project in Boston — the most expensive highway project in United States history is facing – you guessed it, a cost overrun. And, the Massachusetts health-insurance-for- everyone plan is up and running and one of the first things state officials noticed was – it cost more than expected.

The infrastructure project is called the Big Dig. A series of tunnels (with accompanying ramps and bridges) were dug under the heart of Boston to replace an elevated highway.

Originally, the Big Dig carried a price tag of $2.6 billion. A Boston Globe headline in the past week read Big Dig Costs Continue to Swamp State. The current projected cost when the project is paid off is now estimated to be nearly 10-fold higher at $22-billion. And, the pay-off isn’t for 30 years so who knows how much that figure will change.

The Massachusetts experiment in universal health care has just begun but already is dealing with cost overruns because more people are signing up for the subsidized insurance than the state anticipated.

Were the original estimates purposely low-balled to capture support for the projects? Or is estimating the cost of building or paying for services such an inexact science? The only thing we know for sure is that ultimately the taxpayer is the backup for any and all missed estimates.

What’s important for Californians is to recognize the missteps of others and correct them or change course before we too have to pay the piper.

It’s been said that you can’t go home again. I fear aspects of home are coming after me.