Sunday, July 20, 2008

War Against the Suburbs & Walters on the Budget

1) Though suburban living is how most American prefer to live, especially those folks with families, there has been a war against the suburbs ever since the first people deserted the urban centers for the peace of rolling hills and valleys and it continues in California, as this article by Joel Kotkin notes.

An excerpt.

“In the meantime, Mr. Brown [California Attorney General Jerry Brown] is taking aim at the suburbs, concerned about the alleged environmental damage they cause. He sees suburban houses as inefficient users of energy. He sees suburban commuters clogging the roads as wasting precious fossil fuel. And, mostly, he sees wisdom in an intricately thought-out plan to compel residents to move to city centers or, at least, to high-density developments clustered near mass transit lines.

“Mr. Brown is not above using coercion to create the demographic patterns he wants. In recent months, he has threatened to file suit against municipalities that shun high-density housing in favor of building new suburban singe-family homes, on the grounds that they will pollute the environment. He is also backing controversial legislation -- Senate bill 375 -- moving through the state legislature that would restrict state highway funds to communities that refuse to adopt "smart growth" development plans. "We have to get the people from the suburbs to start coming back" to the cities, Mr. Brown told planning experts in March.

“The problem is, that's not what Californians want. For two generations, residents have been moving to the suburbs. They are attracted to the prospect, although not always the reality, of good schools, low crime rates and the chance to buy a home. A 2002 Public Policy Institute of California poll found that 80% of Californians prefer single-family homes over apartment living. And, even as the state's traffic jams are legendary, it is not always true that residents clog roads to commute to jobs in downtown Los Angeles or other cities”.

2) The California state budget confuses just about everybody, but this column by Dan Walters, makes it a little clearer.

An excerpt.

“The clearest set of numbers, however, may not be found in any version of the state budget but rather in the actual cash reports published by the state controller's office. They tell us what's coming into the state treasury from various taxes and other revenue sources and where it's being spent.

“There is some discrepancy between the controller's numbers and the budget's, because the former show what's already happened, while the latter project what's supposed to happen. But the controller's report gives us a fairly clear picture of the state's finances. And it's not pretty.

“During the fiscal year that ended June 30, the general fund received $96.4 billion in revenues and spent $103.4 billion. This means there was a $7 billion shortfall, much of it covered by tapping reserves, delaying some payments and borrowing several billion dollars.

“Schwarzenegger and legislators may disagree sharply on the 2008-09 budget, but they do agree that it has a $15.2 billion deficit. That would indicate, therefore, that roughly half of the overall deficit is "structural," meaning it's built into the system, and the other half is cyclical, caused by a deteriorating economy.”