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August 30, 2003

Why California is Just Fine

A couple of conservative bloggers (here and here) are citing my article from last year, California: Where Democrats Can Be Democrats to argue that, with the budget crisis, this just shows the "Democratic Party shouldn't be in control of anything"-- citing as an authority Ann Coulter no less.

Except they ignored a key caveat on why the Democrats were not in control of the budget process-- I said the key to progressive legislation was that the Democrats in California "do not face filibusters, except on budget and tax issues where the GOP maintains a veto due to post-Prop 13 rules." The reason no balanced budget could be approved was because the GOP blocked it.

But overall California is still in good shape economically compared to the rest of the country. Just check out this Forbes magazine (hardly a leftwing source) profile of California:

In the fourth annual Forbes/Milken Institute Best Places for Business and Careers in the U.S., California has grabbed six of the top ten spots. With more than $1 trillion worth of goods and services produced each year, the Golden State generates 13% of total GDP in the U.S., making it the world's fifth-largest economy.
And my buddy Max Sawicky prepared this graph showing that job loss in California has largely been in sync with the US as a whole-- if anything doing a bit better in this recession compared to the last one when a Republican was in the governor's chair.

Oh yeah, despite it's reputation, California does not have particularly high tax rates.

It turns out that California ranks a mere 19th out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia in the tax burden it imposes on individuals and businesses. The ranking is based on total state and local taxes, fees and other revenue as a percentage of personal income in 2000, the most recent year for which complete data are available, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators.
One reason California sometimes is seen as having a high tax rate is that many supposed "low tax states" impose many more fees than California.

So yes, I'm happy to claim California as a Democratic success story-- as soon as we change the post-Prop 13 tax rules and remove the GOP veto on the budget.

BTW Calpundit touches on this debate about California churning out progressive legislation, but mistakenly believes that " lots of states have governors and legislatures of the same party." Most states don't even have the same party controlling both branches of the legislature. At the moment, only California, Illinois, Maine, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and West Virginia have uncontested Democratic control of both chambers of the legislature and the governor's mansion. Subtract the more conservative Democrats from the South (MS, OK, TN) and that gives you just six states with generally progressive control.

Posted by Nathan at August 30, 2003 09:54 PM