Oh, the drama. Will Gov. Brown and the Democrats get enough votes to push forward taxes to pay for $5.2 billion annually in transportation?

Reaction: who cares?

$5.2 billion may sound like a lot of money. But it’s a tiny fraction of what California needs to maintain its faltering transportation infrastructure. (For context, it cost $1.6 billion just to widen and improve a section of just one Los Angeles freeway, the 405, in recent years). And it’s an even tinier fraction of what will be needed to transform our transportation so that a denser state has the transit and autonomous-vehicle-confirming roads it will need in the very near future.

But this is Jerry Brown’s California, where the state never tackles the big investment the future requires. We do small things that don’t mean much. Tax increases to fund education but don’t do very much for education. Changes in school formulas that are supposed to help poor kids (though we’ll never know, since the state doesn’t do honest assessment of their impact). And a host of small taxes that cover only a fraction of our needs in a host of areas.

Though we’re all supposed to stand and applaud—because our politicians are supposedly doing all that is possible within our nutty governing system. And if you want to change that system to make bigger, necessary policy changes possible, well, you’re the one who is nuts.

The result of this Brown approach to governance is: Californians are forever being asked to pay a little bit more, even as the meager dollars leave them with a little bit less.

The transportation plan will produce the same problem. As the East Bay Times has noted, much of the money won’t end up on actual projects—but in boosting salaries at transportation agencies like BART (which is why the state senator Steve Glazer was right to balk at supporting it).

Yes, of course, this is hardly the only transportation funding out there, and other levels of government – federal and local – have big roles to play. We can’t expect a state – which should focus on schools, health care and prisons – to solve all our transportation problems.

But the state should be doing much, much more. A good start would be 10 times what this deal does. $50 billion a year, which would deal with maintenance backlog quickly and allow for strategic assessment of the future.

Of course, that would require not just more taxes, but tax reform. And Gov. Brown refuses to do tax reform, because it’s unrealistic. Instead, he prefers to do small deals that don’t do much—like this one–and complain about rising debt and borrowing supported by people who actually want school improvements and new infrastructure, which he says he wants to build but that the state can’t afford. Kafka has nothing on our governor.

So don’t worry too much about the transportation deal. Worry about the fact that no matter what happens with this deal, California doesn’t have a response that matches the scale of its transportation challenges.