Sunday, December 30, 2007

Walters on State’s Population

Whether growing or not, the need for infrastructure in our state is seriously underfunded.

Dan Walters: Population increases drive state
By Dan Walters -
Published 12:00 am PST Sunday, December 30, 2007

Just before Christmas, the state's demographers released an update on California's population, having calculated that as of July 1, it had increased by some 438,000 souls during the previous year and stood at just under 38 million.

A few days later, the Census Bureau weighed in with its own estimate, pegging California's population at more than a million fewer than the state number and thus continuing an ongoing conflict between state and federal demographers about growth in the nation's most populous state.

Simply put, the Census Bureau believes that California has lost much more population to other states – some 1.2 million since 2000 – than the state Department of Finance, which believes there has been very little, if any, such loss.

Whatever the true figure, the new data are another reminder that California remains an ever-expanding and ever-changing society, and dealing with that fact is its most important and most neglected political issue.

Although Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state legislators are still patting themselves on the back for enacting nearly $40 billion in public works bonds in 2006, it was, at best, a down payment on an infrastructure need that is several times that large and, as the population numbers imply, will continue to grow.

Those 438,000 additional Californians (the state number) will generate a need for at least 150,000 new housing units, which means that while the housing industry has been clobbered and there are many vacancies, within a year or two, demand will catch up. Deciding where and how ever-increasing numbers of Californians will be housed is a major issue for state and local governments.