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California By The Numbers

To ring in the new year, the California Legislative’s Analyst’s Office issued Cal Facts 2013.  According to the LAO, this report is intended to provide “a broad overview of public finance and program trends in the state”.

For those who prefer to see the glass half full, here are some interesting “facts” from the report:

  • California’s economy is the 9th largest in the world.
  • California home prices have begun to increase.
  • Student achievement is rising over time.
  • Between 1991 and 2011, California’s overall crime rate declined by 56 percent – it is now at an historic low.
For those who prefer to see the glass as half empty, there are a number of troubling “facts”:
  • California’s tax burden was higher than that of all neighboring states.
  • Of the other most populous states, only New York’s tax burden was higher.
  • California’s tax burden was the tenth highest among all 50 states.
  • The top 1% of  income earners pay about 40% of income taxes.
For those who see the glass as two sizes too big:
  • The planned high speed rail system from San Francisco to Anaheim is estimated to cost $68.4 billion and only $12.3 billion in federal funds and state bond funds have been identified.
The LAO is not a state agency within the executive branch.  Rule 37 of the legislature’s Temporary Joint Rules provides for the creation of a joint legislative budget committee comprised of eight members from each house.  Under the rule, the committee has the authority to appoint a legislative analyst.  The post of legislative analyst has grown to 43 analysts and 13 support staff.  This costs the taxpayers over $7 million annually.

Among other duties, the legislative analyst is required to ascertain the facts and make recommendations to the joint legislative committee and under its direction to other legislative committees.  The requirement that it make recommendations distinguishes it from the federal Congressional Budget Office which provides analysis only.

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