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Inflation adjusted per capita state spending doubles in one decade – for what?

The California State Legislature has just released the “Floor Report of the 2022-2023 Budget,” and it’s a doozy. Representing an agreement between the budget committees of the Assembly and the Senate, and building on Governor Newsom’s proposal, this $300 billion monstrosity has moved one step closer to becoming final.

To fully appreciate how out of control California’s state government spending has become, compare the general fund spending growth over just the past ten years. The following chart, relying on official state budget reports going back to 2012-13, shows California’s General Fund spending by year. Back then, the general fund was $92.9 billion. Adjusting for inflation and expressing this amount in 2022 dollars, the 2012-13 general fund was $118.4 billion, barely half the swollen $235.5 billion that is projected for the upcoming budget year.

When you take into account the fact that California’s population has only increased by 3.1 percent in the past decade (it’s actually declined for the past two years), this budget profligacy becomes even more inexplicable. The inflation adjusted (i.e., in 2022 dollars) per capita general fund spending ten years ago was $3,124. It has now exploded to $6,023 per person. What has the average Californian gotten for all that extra money, apart from taxes that are higher than ever, and set to go even higher?

By almost every objective measure, Californians are worse off today than ten years ago. Back in June 2012, the average cost of a home in California […] Read More

Will California Voters Approve More Taxes and Borrowing?

If your city council puts a tax increase on the ballot, or your local school district puts a construction bond on the ballot, chances are very good it will get approved. Data from the past four November general elections is unambiguous. In November of 2020, for example, 80 percent of school bonds were approved by voters. Measured by dollar amounts, 91 percent of the proposed borrowing was approved. Similarly, voters in November 2020 approved 85 percent of local tax proposals; measured by projected tax receipts, 98 percent of the proposed tax increases were approved.

The following chart, using data provided by the California Tax Foundation, shows how billions upon billions of new taxes and borrowing have piled up over the past decade. And this chart is far from complete. It only reports on November elections, whereas additional hundreds of local tax and borrowing proposals have been approved by voters in primary elections and numerous special elections. Moreover, while the local bond totals are accurate, the projected total local tax revenues are far from accurate, because in about half of all cases, the data (ref. 2016, 2018, and 2020) for a new tax proposal does not report any estimate of how much additional annual revenue is anticipated.

Nonetheless the numbers are impressive. Over the past four November elections, voters have approved $60.6 billion in local school bonds, another $9.4 billion in general obligation bonds, and at least $5.2 billion in annual tax increases.

[…] Read More

Did Ballot Harvesting Impact March 3 Bond and Tax Proposals?

Next day returns on the special election for California’s 25th congressional district indicate that a Republican, Mike Garcia, is holding a 56 percent to 44 percent lead over Democrat Christy Smith. That looks awfully good for Garcia. And while in this case Garcia’s lead does look insurmountable, in California, early returns don’t always equal final results.

According to California’s current elections code, mailed in ballots are counted as long as they are postmarked by election day, and arrive up to three days later. In practice, this translates into final results in close elections being delayed for several weeks.

California’s election code also permits so-called “ballot harvesting,” which is alleged to swing the results of close elections. And unless, at the very least, both candidates and parties have equally effective voter harvesting operations, why wouldn’t it?

The process works this way: A campaign operative canvasses a neighborhood in the days prior to an election. Armed with a cell phone app that identifies which households have voters that are registered with the candidate’s party, they only knock on those doors.

“Hello, have you voted? No? You have not? Well do you have your ballot? Why don’t you fill it in and I’ll take it and submit it for you?” Or, if the person has already filled out their ballot, but haven’t gotten around to mailing it, “here, let me take that and get it mailed for you.”

Depending on who you ask, ballot harvesting in California was a major factor in […] Read More