An Assembly of Pieces
 

 
James Anderson Merritt's piecemeal thoughts and observations, and the occasional attempt to put some of the pieces together.
 
 
 
Write to James!

All material except cited quotations Copyright (C) 2004-2008 by James Anderson Merritt. All rights reserved.
 
 
Wednesday, March 12, 2003
 
LETTERS, WE WRITE LETTERS: WHY A BUDGET CRISIS?


Only ten days after my previous publication, the Santa Cruz Sentinel ran yet another letter of mine, in which I questioned the nature and causes of California's so-called "budget crisis". As a bonus, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a phone call from Bob Suhr, the key proponent of last year's repeal of the Santa Cruz County utility tax. He congratulated me on the publication of my letter and shared with me his disappointment that so many people accept official declarations of "crisis" unquestioningly, at face value.


During the campaign for utility tax repeal, Mr. Suhr was viciously excoriated by those who fought to keep the tax in place, but I have only ever seen him act and write with integrity, discipline, common sense, and the good manners of a country gentleman. His thoughtful call made my day. Here is the letter that prompted him to contact me:


Why a budget crisis?


I obtained the governor’s latest budget summary from the state Department of Finance. The "Summary of State Tax Collections" (page 72) shows that, excluding abnormal spikes during the boom of 1999 and 2000, both general fund revenues and total revenues have risen steadily.


Indeed, 2003 general fund revenue expectations are 13 percent higher than 1998 revenue (the last "pre-bubble" year), while total revenues should be 22 percent higher, indicating sustained average annual growth rates of 2.12 and 3.67 percent, respectively.


Other Department of Finance estimates predict that California’s population will have grown by 10 percent during that same interval, for an average annual rate of 1.67 percent.


By the governor’s own reckoning, sustainable revenue growth outpaced population growth.


Was government too small in 1998? Did it cost too little?


California expects $15 billion more in total revenue in 2003 than in 1998 (including a $7 billion general fund increase).


Might today’s "budget crisis" come from massive growth in government size and spending? Did politicians simply promise more than they could deliver, effectively writing rubber checks? Are ominous, "massive cuts" only reductions in overly optimistic spending plans?


Consider: Excluding the windfall of the two-year boom, the total amount of money received and spent by the state steadily increased throughout the past decade (especially from 2001 through 2003).


How has California’s spending far exceeded both its population growth rate and its ever-increasing revenue stream? Why can’t we keep our state government running, or our neighborhood schools open, without gross overspending?


Sentinel, please help us understand!


JAMES MERRITT
SANTA CRUZ


Keep reading to the letter immediately below, published ten days earlier, for one big step that people can take to deal with the crop of faux "budget crises" that states seem to have harvested across the country this year, not to mention the disingenuous drumbeat to war.

 

 
   
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