Don’t think for a second that California’s chronic deficits are caused by low taxes. Even before last Tuesday’s tax hikes, California had the most progressive income tax system in the nation, with seven brackets, and the second-highest top marginal rate. Now it has the nation’s highest top marginal rate and the nation’s highest sales tax. And the budget still isn’t balanced.
The real cause for California’s fiscal crisis is simple: They spend too much money. Between 1996 and 2012, the state’s population grew by just 15 percent, but spending more than doubled, from $45.4 billion to $92.5 billion (in 2005 constant dollars).
What are Californians getting for all this government spending? According to a new census report released Friday, almost one-quarter, 23.5 percent, of all Californians are in poverty. One-third of all the nation’s welfare recipients live in the state, despite the fact that California has only one-eighth of the country’s population. That’s four times as many as the next-highest welfare population, which is New York. Meanwhile, California eighth-graders finished ahead of only Mississippi and District of Columbia students on reading and math test scores in 2011.