Indeed, the idea that California’s budget has been out of control as measured against inflation and population growth is a deeply cherished talking point in the debate over the state’s fiscal deficit.
Unfortunately, it turns out to be yet another infectious myth. The truth is that over the last 10 years, California’s spending has tracked population growth and price increases almost to the penny.
. . . .
Analyzing the 2008-09 budget bill last year, the legislative analyst determined that since 1998-99, spending in the general fund and state special funds — the latter comes from special levies like gasoline and tobacco taxes — had risen to $128.8 billion from $72.6 billion, or 77%.
During this time frame, which embraced two booms (dot-com and housing) and two busts (ditto), the state’s population grew about 30% to about 38 million, and inflation charged ahead by 50%.
Chris Reed has the scoop:
According to official state government statistics, the population in 1999 was 33.4 million.
Yo, Michael, guess you’re another one of those journos who not only can’t do math, you can’t work a calculator. Just go to Google. Enter 38,000,000/33,400,000. You’ll see the actual percentage increase: 13.772455 percent.
Reed is right. His math is accurate. California’s population in 1998 was 33.3 million (.pdf). We’re now at 38.3 million. Using these numbers, we’re looking at an increase of 15% at the most. Not 30%. Hiltzik has doubled the increase.
Time for a letter to the Readers’ Rep. I’m too tired right now; you can reach her at ReadersRep@latimes.com.
Matt Welch takes a few more swipes at Hiltzik’s substance here.
UPDATE: Here is my letter to the Readers’ Rep.