MORE CALIFORNIA BUDGET NONSENSE….The rest of you may safely leave the room.

Ann Salisbury reports that assemblyman John Campbell wants a constitutional amendment that would limit spending increases to the rate of inflation plus population growth. Ann says, “I think I like it.” So let’s take a look at how this would have played out over the past two decades:

  • 1980: Budget = $52 billion (in 2002 dollars), population = 23 million. Per capita spending is thus $2,260 per person.

  • 2002: Population is now 35 million, so keeping the same per capita spending, the state budget would be $79 billion.

The actual budget last year was $98 billion, and we are supposedly $24 billion in the red for next year, which means that without tax increases the budget needs to be cut to $74 billion. So even if we had followed Campbell’s proposal, we’d still be in the hole. But at least we’d only be $5 billion in the hole!

(Actually, this gives you an idea of how much trouble California is in. Even if per capita spending had been absolutely flat for the past 20 years, we’d still be deeply in the red.)

On another subject, Ann quotes an LA Times article with this jaw dropping statement:

To begin with, the state does not have to balance its budget. The Constitution merely requires that the governor propose a balanced budget. At the end of its fiscal year the state budget can show a deficit. This also means that any governor can fulfill his constitutional obligation by proposing changes that he knows will never be enacted. So as you read about Gov. Gray Davis’ budget, remember that what counts is not what he asks for but what he can get through the Legislature.

Can this really be true? Hell, my cats could propose a balanced budget. If the legislature doesn’t have to actually pass one, then what’s all the fuss about every year?

Something here has got to be wrong.