Thanks to the gullibility of California's voters -- and that gullibility is vast when judged by the kinds of people they elect and the propositions they've approved lately -- the state's legislative analyst last month projected the state will end the current fiscal year with a reserve of $2.4 billion. And by 2017-18, the same source says, the state could be taking in about $9.6 billion more than it spends each year.
Naturally, Democrats are overjoyed. Taxpayers aren't so pleased, because what the figures mean is that the state will be extracting a net $2.4 billion from them (and the private sector) this year, and by 2017, another $9.6 billion a year.
Even more worrisome, even though our elected state representatives adopted a pension reform measure a year ago, that reform is now being ignored. The reforms would have caused state government to provide an additional $6 billion a year for teachers and state workers to keep their pension funds solvent. But in the face of all that new revenue (mostly due to those gullible state voters' approval of Proposition 30 a year ago) the speaker of the state Assembly, John Perez, now wants to use the cash to boost spending on the state's social programs -- and never mind teachers' and other state workers' future retirement security.
And how big is the unfunded state retirement benefits program? The state budget analyst pegs it at about $200 billion-plus. The legislators (well, not all of them; only the Democrats) looks at the surplus cash (it's only "surplus" if they disregard the fact that in reality it's already committed elsewhere) as a welcome windfall to be treated as discretionary income.
In addition, those same legislators would rather keep taxpayers ignorant of the fact that the money's coming in faster by the temporary tax hikes from Proposition 30 that will expire completely by 2020. But as usual, they've decided to put off until then any decisions about saving at least some of the money in case of future financial difficulties -- a downturn in the economy, for instance. And we all know those difficulties are going to crop up. This, after all, is California, where financial irresponsibility in Sacramento is a way of life. No, make that the way of life.
One last point. The Assembly has been plugging holes in the past several budgets by borrowing, borrowing that now amounts to $27 billion. Among the ways they "borrowed" the funds was to defer payments to schools and local governments ... where we all live. So all of those communities will be trying to come up with ways to replace the money, or more likely, do without it. And without it, local government services will continue to be underfunded. Keep that in mind the next time you hit an unavoidable pothole on the way to work. And remember why the pothole's there.