Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Coming California Bailout

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked for $6.9 billion in federal funds in his state-budget proposal Friday and warned that state health and welfare programs would be threatened without the emergency help.

Mr. Schwarzenegger's proposed $82.9 billion general-fund budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year would close a $19.9 billion gap over 18 months. In addition to the federal aid, he called for $8.5 billion in cuts and $4.5 billion in alternative funding to balance the budget.

"It's time to enact long-term reforms that will change the way the most populous state and the federal government work together," Mr. Schwarzenegger said. He and state legislative leaders plan to visit Washington to lobby for bailout money. White House budget officials weren't available for comment on the governor's request.
Federal bailouts of state governments are insane not just because they reward profligate state spending. These bailouts also come with strings attached - dictates on how states can run education, welfare, transportation, and so on - and thus quickly destory any remnance of federalism in the United States.

10 comments:

James Mitchell said...

It is hard to think of a state less needful of outside assistance than California. California has a highly educated, highly educated workforce that generates hundreds of billions in revenues. Silicon Valley is the high tech startup center of the world, surpassing Route 128 (no. 2) by a greater margin every year. Los Angeles is the movie production center of the world. Stanford University now equals Harvard and Yale in prestige and research, with UCLA and UC Berkeley close behind.

There is only one reason why such a prosperous state with such an educated workforce has fiscal problems: California has been spending beyond its means for decades. California simply has to match its spending with its extraordinarily high tax receipts. California has more than enough in revenues to provide a ridiculous level of services to its citizens.

I doubt even the Obama administration will be dumb enough to bail out California, but they could be tempted because California has so many votes and the Democrats are beginning to realize they will suffer huge losses in November 2010. (The only question is how large will their losses be.) Assuming the feds do adopt an insane policy of bailing out California (if they do, 20 other states will show up the next day, asking for money), they should do so on the basis they have bailed out large private companies -- a complete takeover of the California political system. The governor and legislature should be fired en masse with replaced with a governing board comprised of people such as Jack Welch, Mitt Romney and Richard Riordan, who would find a way for California to quickly balance its budget. If the federal government can demand the replacement of the CEO of GM in exchange for a bailout, there is no reason it should not do so for California. In short, California should be placed in receivership.

Any funds provided should be in the form of loans, at market rates, with a substantial kicker. Collateral should be required. The terms of the loan should be so unattractive that no state will ever again seek a federal bailout.

James Mitchell
www.jmitchell.me

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