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Last week, I pointed readers to a risibly rose-colored analysis of California courtesy of the New York Times‘ Timothy Egan. In a passage I didn’t quote in that post, Egan wrote:
All of [California’s efforts] together — the rerouted rivers, the train moving at the speed of Superman, taxing the rich and welcoming a Latino majority — is a road not taken by any other state. You can laugh at the sunbaked barbarians, even wish them ill. But you should not fail to see in their fledgling renaissance another chapter in the American experiment, no less daring than the Golden Gate Bridge or the castle that Hearst erected at continent’s edge.
Let’s put that “experiment” in slightly more prosaic terms. From the Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Alert blog:
Were California’s state government a business, it would be a candidate for insolvency with a negative net worth of $127.2 billion, according to an annual financial report issued by State Auditor Elaine Howle and the Bureau of State Audits.
… The report listed the state’s long-term obligations at $167.9 billion, nearly half of which ($79.9 billion) were in general obligation bonds, with another $30.8 billion in revenue bonds, many of which were issued to build state prisons, whose “revenue” is lease payments from the state general fund.
The list of long-term obligations did not include the much-disputed unfunded liabilities for state employees’ future pensions, nor the $60-plus billion in unfunded liabilities for retiree health care. The Governmental Accounting Standards Board and Moody’s, a major bond credit rating house, have been pushing states and localities to include unfunded retiree obligations in their balance sheets and were they to be added to California’s, it could push its negative net worth down by several hundred billion dollars.
Enjoy that renaissance, California.Published in