Data Surfer

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Another sign of the ongoing recession: Preliminary third quarter data showed sharp declines in tax revenue for most states, including California. The Rockefeller Institute of Government says total state collections fell from $134.0 billion in Q3 2008 to $119.7 billion in Q3 2009, about a 11.3 percent drop. Corporate income tax, personal income tax and sales tax revenues decreased 19.4, 11.4 and 8.2 percent, respectively.

Total California revenue didn't drop as much, percentage-wise (8.7). Broken out, corporate income, personal income and sales tax collections dropped 11.3, 16.0 and 1.0 percent, respectively.

The New York Times has produced two health reform infographics that deserve mention. The first summarizes the recent House vote on H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act. In addition to the complete tally of each house member's position, the accompanying map shows the geography of the vote with color-coding of each congressional district in the country. You get a good sense of where the Democrats who voted for and against the bill come from.

The other infographic is a well-illustrated NYT timeline of attempts at health reform legislation in the United States. It begins in 1912 with Theodore Roosevelt promising national health insurance while campaigning for President, and ends with the Oct. 7 House vote. (Presumably the chronology will grow with new developments.) Most of the timeline entries are supplemented with historic Times news clippings.

Misery loves company. So with California facing yet another budget shortfall, it's comforting (if that's the appropriate emotion) to know that several other states are in the same fiscal pickle.

The Pew Center on the States today released a study identifying nine other states whose budgetary and economic troubles have approached California-like dimensions. Pew scored all 50 states by six factors

  • high foreclosure rate
  • increasing unemployment
  • decreasing state revenue
  • relative size of budget deficit
  • legal obstacles to balancing budget (such as a supermajority budget vote threshold)
  • poor money management practices

and concluded that Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island and Wisconsin most match our state's fiscal challenges. This is troubling news for the nation recovery as a whole, since together these 10 troubled states account for more than a third of U.S. population and economic output.

Last week the California Assembly Public Safety Committee held a hearing on a bill that allows marijuana to be taxed and sold legally to adults. The Board of Equalization estimates that pot sales could generate a whopping $1.4 billion net annual revenue gain for the state. But that's based on a lot of assumptions--none backed up by hard data.

A more sober analysis of the budgetary impact of legalizing pot was done in 2005 by Jeffrey Miron, a visiting Harvard economics professor. He concluded that lifting the prohibition on marijuana helps government budgets by generating tax revenue and saving money on enforcement. The national bottom line:

The [Harvard] report estimates that legalizing marijuana would save $7.7 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement of prohibition. $5.3 billion of this savings would accrue to state and local governments, while $2.4 billion would accrue to the federal government.

The report also estimates that marijuana legalization would yield tax revenue of $2.4 billion annually if marijuana were taxed like all other goods and $6.2 billion annually if marijuana were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco.

Broken out by state, Miron estimated that California would save $981 million annually in law enforcement costs (including police, judicial and corrections expenditures), plus generate $105.4 million in additional state taxes. (Again these are 2005 projections.)

The Internal Revenue Service on Monday released fresh statistics on electronic filing of federal income tax returns. About 95 million out of 141 million individual returns were transmitted via the Internet in 2009. That's almost a nine point hike in the percent of e-Filers over last year. Since 2000, the proportion has grown from 27.57 percent to 67.18 percent. Some 66 percent of tax refunds in 2009 were received with direct deposit. That's up four percent from 2008.

In California more than 77 percent of individual and corporate income tax returns were filed electronically in 2009. That's a 2.5 percent increase over last year. In addition, almost 45 percent of filers used direct deposit for refunds.



About Data Surfer

It's all about information -- statistics, documents and data of all types that help us understand the world, make informed decisions and monitor government. It's about empowering citizens with tools and sources so they can conduct their own investigative research. This blog is a place to discuss information that's available on the Internet. What's relevant, useful, valid and accurate -- and what's not.

We know the Sacramento region is home to knowledgeable people who use online information in their respective fields. We want to hear from you. Please tell us what you think of the data we use in stories and post on The Bee's website. And share tips about online resources you think are valuable to this blog's readers. Post comments on this blog or contact Pete Basofin directly at pbasofin@sacbee.com.

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