California’s Deficit

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.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation