Tuesday, June 16, 2009

U.S. Rejects California Aid Request

by Bill McBride on 6/16/2009 10:15:00 AM

From the WaPo: Calif. Aid Request Spurned By U.S

The Obama administration has turned back pleas for emergency aid from one of the biggest remaining threats to the economy -- the state of California.

Top state officials have gone hat in hand to the administration, armed with dire warnings of a fast-approaching "fiscal meltdown" caused by a budget shortfall. Concern has grown inside the White House in recent weeks as California's fiscal condition has worsened, leading to high-level administration meetings. But federal officials are worried that a bailout of California would set off a cascade of demands from other states.
...
The administration is worried that California will enact massive cuts to close its deficit, estimated at $24 billion for the fiscal year that begins July 1, aggravating the state's recession and further dragging down the national economy.

After a series of meetings, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, top White House economists Lawrence Summers and Christina Romer, and other senior officials have decided that California could hold on a little longer and should get its budget in order rather than rely on a federal bailout.
...
The state entered the downturn burdened with an inflexible budgeting apparatus, constrained by a state ballot initiative approved by voters in 1978 that severely limited property taxes in California. The signature example of "ballot box budgeting" left the Golden State inordinately reliant on the personal income tax, which accounts for half of revenue to Sacramento.

California's budget is also heavily dependent on taxes paid on capital gains and stock options, which have been clobbered during the meltdown of financial markets. State budget analysts made their annual estimate of revenue a month before the crisis spiked in the fall and have been backpedaling ever since.

"Those revenue projections turned out to be wildly optimistic, but nobody was predicting the October collapse of the financial markets," said Michael Cohen, deputy analyst in the Legislative Analyst's Office.
Hey, hoocoodanode?

California enjoyed the housing bubble, but is now being hit hard by the housing bust with house prices falling sharply and double digit unemployment. And it doesn't help that the state system of government is completely dysfunctional.