by Chris Reed | April 30, 2014 6:00 am
The readiness of the Sacramento and East Coast media to accept the narrative that Gov. Jerry Brown is a genius who has solved California’s previously immense budget problems is everywhere.
An accountant — as opposed to a journalist or a partisan, or a journalist/partisan — would be infinitely more inclined to look at the numbers and say Brown is getting credit he doesn’t deserve. This is why it was so depressing to see Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor — who used to seem more like an accountant than a political operator — pretend in November that the state could look forward to years of budget surpluses.
This is why it’s nice to see straightforward news accounts pointing out that all is not remotely well with California’s finances. Take it away, Dan Walters:
“As severe recession struck the nation a half-decade ago, California and most other states borrowed heavily from the federal government to prop up their unemployment insurance programs.
“At one time, the states owed Washington more than $47 billion, but the debt has since been cut by more than half to $21 billion, and many of the debtor states have completely erased their negative balances, according to a nationwide surveyby Stateline, a website on state government affairs maintained by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
“But not California. The state began borrowing in 2009 and accounted for more than $10 billion of the debt at its peak, but it has declined only slightly – thanks to a political stalemate in the Capitol — and California now accounts for nearly half of the national debt total.”
Contrast this with LAO boss Mac Taylor in November. He said multibillion-dollar surpluses could soon be the norm in California because of tough decisions made in recent years — by Brown to hold down spending and by voters to raise taxes.
This is grossly misleading. California has hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded retirement benefits, liabilities so immense that they make the state debt to the feds seem trivial.
The LAO is California’s most respected government agency. But that is based on previous directors. Mac Taylor will be remembered as the LAO boss who encouraged Californians to believe lazy, stupid budget spin — instead of the previous sort of LAO boss who tore such spin apart.
Source URL: https://calwatchdog.com/2014/04/30/ca-renaissance-whats-wrong-with-this-picture/
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