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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Housing Slowdown: Impact on State Government

by Calculated Risk on 1/17/2006 05:27:00 PM

The housing boom has increased tax revenue and boosted the economies of "bubble" states. Naturally, many state and local governments are behaving as if the good times will last forever.

The SF Chronicle reports:

After touting his budget plan to increase funding for education and transportation, the governor sounded a cautionary note.

"It's important to remember, however, that our great good fortune is the result of a strong economy and a surging stock market. And anybody who follows the Dow, and particularly the Nasdaq, realizes how volatile these sources of funds are."

The governor was not Arnold Schwarzenegger, but Gray Davis as he released his budget six years ago when state coffers were brimming with $12.3 billion in extra cash.
And we all know what happened to the California budget and Gray Davis. Is Arnold making the same mistake?
Now, as the state's economy rebounds from the technology bust, some are questioning whether Schwarzenegger is venturing down a similar path by using a windfall in tax revenues on more spending when another key sector of the economy -- the real estate market -- shows signs of softening.
The robust economy has been driven by "real estate, real estate and real estate," said Christopher Thornberg, a senior economist at the UCLA Anderson Forecast. He said that market is already starting to cool.

"The question is how much does it cool and how hard," he said, adding that the governor's budget doesn't seem to take the possibility into account. "There doesn't seem to be any contingency planning. There's no downside slack in this budget."
And on a related note, the OC Register is reporting: Late taxes hint at housing's toll
A yellow warning light is shining on the Orange County real estate market's dashboard.

The number of delinquent property tax payments has reached the highest level in a decade.

This worrisome trend may be evidence that high purchase prices and burgeoning payments on popular adjustable mortgages as interest rates rise may finally be taking a toll on the budgets of local property homeowners.