The weekend produced a spate of dang-this-is-bad articles on the economic situation in California. Steven Greenhut’s for the Orange County Register is entitled “California to middle class: drop dead.” At The Daily Beast, Joel Kotkin laments that “As California Collapses, Obama Follows its Lead.” (H/t – and a “Read it, people!” shout-out – to Ed Driscoll at PJM.)
But what does all this look like in terms of numbers? What’s the how much and where and whom of the Golden State collapse? Perhaps the most interesting and telling thing is that it really is as bad as it looks. And the reasons are pretty much what you’d expect. Here’s the California story, in numbers.
According to a March 2012 report, 855,000 is how many private-sector jobs California has lost since the recession started four years ago. (H/t: California Political News & Views.) The state today enjoys an unemployment rate of 11%, compared with the official national average of 8.3%
Texas, by contrast, has added 139,800 jobs, posting the biggest absolute gain among the 50 states. (California’s is the biggest absolute loss.) Texas’ unemployment rate is 7.1%.
But we were talking about California. How does California rank in terms of the average state and local tax burden? According to the Tax Foundation, in 2009, California had the 6th heaviest tax burden in the nation, at 10.6%. (New Jersey was #1, followed by New York at #2.) That’s the in-state tax burden, of course. Federal taxes are on top of that.
Of course, business climate comprises more than the average individual tax burden. The Tax Foundation looks at five forms of taxation – corporate tax, individual income tax, sales tax, property tax, and unemployment insurance tax – to index the business climates of the 50 states. By this combined measure, the Tax Foundation ranks California 48th in business climate. (New York is 49th, and New Jersey 50th.)
State regulatory environment? George Mason University’s Mercatus Center ranks the Golden State 48th in the nation. New Jersey and New York are numbers 49 and 50, respectively.
How about other business costs? California had the 5th highest state premium ranking for worker compensation insurance costs in 2010 (although the state’s position improved slightly in 2011 due to other states raising their state premiums).
California ranks 7th highest in electric utility costs, with Hawaii being the highest, followed by Connecticut and Alaska.
According to the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, California has the third-highest per-gallon gasoline tax (Connecticut and New York are #1 and #2) and by far the highest tax on diesel, at 52.5 cents per gallon. (Some numbers below also come from the SB&EC report.)
California perennially has the second-highest gasoline prices at the pump (Hawaii is #1), although the state has regularly been ranked 3rd or 4th in oil production in recent years. (In the past week the statewide average was $4.15 for a gallon of regular, down from $4.36 a month ago.) In spite of having the third largest oil and gas reserves of any state in the nation, California is ranked dead last among all US jurisdictions for global oil investment. The fact that California hasn’t issued a new offshore drilling permit for over 30 years is undoubtedly a factor, as is the fact that the Monterey Shale Oil Field, which holds 64% of all the recoverable shale oil in the United States, is hamstrung by lawsuits, a typical condition in the state for both drilling and refining operations.
In spite of the state’s natural bounty, California produces only 37% of its statewide oil consumption. The rest comes from other states and countries, at added expense.
In terms of the employer burden of health-insurance mandates, California is 9th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. (Rhode Island, Maryland, and Minnesota have the highest burdens.)
Meanwhile, California ranks 4th highest in state and local government spending per capita. The District of Columbia is the highest, followed by Alaska, Wyoming, and New York.
Ah, yes, state spending. California has by far the largest debt of any US state, at around $612 billion with state and local debt and pension liabilities included. In terms of raw numbers, New York posts a pathetic second place with only $305 billion. The size of California’s population allows the Golden State to slip to only 7th place in terms of per capita state and local debt. The District of Columbia walks off with another prize in this category, having on the books 85% more debt per capita than the 50-state average.
The California debt spiral is due in part to the steep decline in state tax revenues. The 22% year-on-year decline observed in February 2012 doesn’t tell the whole story either; California had already posted dramatic revenue losses in business and property taxes between 2007 and 2010. Business-tax revenues dropped 18% in that period, and property-tax revenues fell 30% due to the real estate market crash.
Let’s talk population trends. Many readers are familiar with the arresting Golden State statistics cited by a Wall Street Journal article in March: