I have updated the post when a reader caught an error in one of my figures. Teaches me to double check me math and shows you one of the advantages of this medium. While we lack editors, we have commentators who can draw our attention to errors in our posts. Thanks for catching that, Pat, and drawing it to my attention!
Yesterday, when Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa addresed the Decision Day Rally in West Hollywood, he mentioned his recent trip to the state capitol and whined that our state’s budget woes were caused by a “broken system.” (Note how he used the passive to deflect responsibility.)
And that got me thinking. Earlier in the day, I had read about the California Scare Campaign where the folks that Democrat is courting as he prepares his run for Governor, “California’s political-journalist class was gearing up to frighten-slash-chastise Californians about the ‘annihilating cuts’ coming their way now that petulant voters failed to heed the weary wisdom of their betters“:
Calfornia lawmakers, and the unions who put them into office, will do everything in their power to cut services first, employees last. That is indeed a crucial reason why we got here in the first place. Any analysis that doesn’t explore how a higher-than-inflation-plus-immigration budget has failed to deliver on any increase in services, is not an analysis worth taking more seriously than common propaganda.
So, with that bolded expression in mind, I decided to do a little web investigation. And a few google searches helped me discover just how profligate our state legislators have been.
I decided to use 1999 as a baseline, the year Democrat Gray Davis succeeded Pete Wilson as Governor. That year the population of the Golden State was 33,145,121 (according to Census Bureau estimates). By 2008, the latest figures I could find online, the population has grown to 36,756,666, an increase of 3,611,545 or 10.89616%. (Please note that in my original draft, I had failed to double check my math and has a lower figure. Thanks for reader Pat for catching the error.)
Calculating inflation over that period was easy, once I discovered the handy-dandy US Inflation Calculator online. I plugged in 1999 and 2008 to get a rate of inflation change of 29.2%.
Thus, combining an inflation plus population increase, we get a rate of 32.38%.
(Pat, in the comment below, uses a different method of compounding percentages, I get a 43.27% rate.)
According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), “California’s Nonpartisan Fiscal and Policy Advisor,” the 1998-99 Budget totaled 57,827,075,000. If we multiply that by 32.38%, we get an in incease of 18,724,407,000. Without any budget cuts, allowing funding to increase by the rate of inflation plus population grown, the 2007-08* budget should be $76,551,482,000. (With Pat’s method, we get $82,848,850.)
According to the LAO, the 2007-08 budget was over $100 billion. Even with cutbacks, expenditures haven’t fallen below $90 billion. Is that the result of a broken system or of legislators failing to hold the line on spending? Or is it governors letting them get away with it?
ADDENDUM: Had I followed a link in Matt Welch’s post (from which I pulled the block quote above), I might have spared myself some effort. Michael Flynn and Adam Summers of the Reaon Foundation has already looked into this:
If the state [since fiscal year 1990–91] had simply limited spending increases to the 4.4 percent annual average growth in consumer price index plus population, the state would be sitting on a $15 billion surplus this year instead of a $42 billion deficit.
A significant portion of California’s spending increase stems from the growth in state employees. Today there are more than 356,000 workers on California’s payroll, or 9.3 state employees for every 1,000 residents. The biggest hiring binges came during Gray Davis’ dot-com exuberance, and then again during the pre-recession Schwarzenegger administration.
They went back to Pete Wilson’s first budget. I started with his last.
Guess Antonio Villaraigosa, even eager to please the interest groups clamoring for more money from the state, hasn’t bothered to look back at the record of the men who once held the job to which he currently aspires.
ADD-ADDENDUM: Maybe the sizable salaries of California public employees have something to do with the state’s rapidly increasing expenditures.
*Figured I’d use that year because 2008 was the last year for which I had population data.