"California is a trendsetter state," Christian Probasco wrote in a 2007
magazine article. "Every Californian fad eventually makes it way over
Let's hope this is no longer true, because this today, those
Californians who choose to go to the polls almost certainly will
guarantee California will be the first state to go bankrupt.
In February, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the legislature "solved" a
$42 billion budget deficit with a mixture of (real) tax increases and
(mostly cosmetic) budget cuts.
But the deal was contingent upon voter approval of five ballot
measures to extend tax increases, and to permit the state to raid funds
set aside for early childhood education and mental health services.
Polls indicate all of the measures are trailing, four of them badly. If
the voters say no, California could run out of money as soon as July,
the chief budget analyst for the legislature warned May 7.
If the measures fail, he'll close prisons and lay off policemen and
firemen, Gov. Schwarzenegger said. As wildfires rage in California, the
governator is planning to cut 602 full time and 1,100 seasonal fire
fighter positions, the San Francisco Chronicle reported May 5.
An opponent of the ballot measures said the governor was just trying to
change votes. "It's all about fear," said Jon Coupal, president of the
Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. "Next week they'll threaten school
California isn't in financial trouble because the state hasn't had
enough money to spend. According to Adam Summers of the Reason
Foundation: "if California had simply held spending to the average
population growth plus the average increase in the cost of living during
the past three gubernatorial administrations…the state would have been
sitting on a $15 billion surplus."
Though state spending has soared, the quality of the public services
Californians care about most has deteriorated.
California's public schools were once among the nation's finest. But in
a 2004 report, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation said: "huge
numbers of schools fail to hire and keep qualified teachers, far too
many students lack textbooks and other essential materials to use in
school or at home, many classrooms are severely overcrowded, and large
numbers of schools are infested with rats and cockroaches."
Infrastructure is crumbling. In 2006, the American Society of Civil
Engineers gave California's roads a D+ grade.
But the salaries and pensions of state employees are among the highest
in the nation. California's budget has exploded chiefly to feed the
avaricious appetites of public employee unions.
"Since 1990, the number of state employees has increased by more than a
third," noted columnist George Will. " In Schwarzenegger's less than six
years as governor, per capita government spending, adjusted for
inflation, has increased nearly 20 percent."
"Everyone has a story of a state or county employee friend who is
retiring at 55 with a guaranteed life pension of $75,000 or more plus
gold-plated medical benefits," wrote Los Angeles radio talk show host
It costs a lot to keep bureaucrats in the lap of luxury. California's
sales and income taxes are among the highest in the nation.
High taxes aren't the only reason people and businesses have been moving
out of state. Few states impose more regulations on business and
property. A high state minimum wage and an excessive workers'
compensation system also contribute to a cost of doing business in
California that is 20 percent higher than the national average.
One of the few genuine cuts the legislature made in February was to
reduce the state's contribution to the pay of home health care workers.
But President Obama, acting on behalf of the Service Employees
International Union, has threatened to withhold $6.8 billion in stimulus
funds unless the cuts are restored.
Pay attention to what happens in California. It's a harbinger of things
to come everywhere.