CALIFORNIA’S DEFICIT….California’s legislative analyst, Elizabeth Hill, is nonpartisan and widely respected. Unfortunately, her efforts to capture Californians’ attention with talk of “structural imbalances” and aging infrastructure is usually met with glassy-eyed indifference. So her most recent report on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget plan does its best to hit ’em where it hurts: cut the budget in the wrong places, she says, and lines at the DMV will get longer and longer. The LA Times even has a helpful chart.

That’s telling ’em. She also has some more substantive concerns:

  • California has the second worst roads in the nation, so we shouldn’t be cutting back on the transportation budget. Her preferred solution is an increase in the gas tax.

  • The economy isn’t growing as fast as projected. This blows another $1 billion hole in the budget.

  • We should stop raiding local governments whenever the state gets in trouble. That $1.3 billion.

  • Arnold’s budget figures are extremely optimistic. Even if everything he’s counting on comes true, we’ll still have a $1 billion deficit this year and $7 billion next year. And if things don’t all go 100% perfectly, we’ll be several billion dollars in the hole.

And here’s an interesting statistic. Increased taxes may sound bad, but Hill claims that Californians pay $700 more than they should in car repairs each year because of bad roads. I’m not sure what her backup for that is, but it’s a pretty good way of framing the issue and demonstrating that increased taxes aren’t necessarily always a bad thing.

On another note, a few people have asked me what I think about our $15 billion deficit bond that’s on the March 2 ballot. Answer: I don’t know. I really ought to look into the pros and cons, I suppose, but the whole California budget situation is such an ungodly mess that it just makes me tired. Still, unlike most of you, I actually have to vote on this in a couple of weeks, so I suppose I ought to make an effort. Maybe this weekend I’ll dive into it.

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