It's increasingly typical for people to think of California's budget crisis as a product of wreckless overspending. Even legislative Democrats seem to have given up on further tax increases and will focus on spending cuts.
The other day Steve Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, sent out a five-page white paper attempting to put California's spending habits in perspective.
Keep in mind that Levy is something of a lefty, and his paper begins with a warning against "destroying our safety net and putting our future prosperity in danger by cutting investments in education." He argues that the deficit is "100% the result of the deepening national recession."
Whether you agree with his perspective or not, he makes a couple of interesting points.
- State spending is growing more slowly than it really should, once inflation and population growth are considered.
- The state bureacracy isn't as bloated as you might think. California has the second lowest ratio of state workers to general population among the states. California had 103 employees per 10,000 residents in 2007, the latest figures available. The average was 143.