The horse-trading sessions in Greece will most likely lead to new elections, and the inevitable: Greece’s exit from the Eurozone. The uncertain consequences for Greece and the rest of Europe will confound jittery financial markets. And while all eyes are fixed on Greece, a tiny economy on the worldwide scale, a much larger economy is heading deeper into fiscal disaster: California.
The hoped-for April spike in personal income tax revenues for the State of California fell again below the assumptions used to get the budget to “balance.” Instead of $9.4 billion, the state collected only $7.4 billion. A 21% shortfall! Corporate taxes were also below forecast. Red in ink for fiscal 2012 is nearly $12 billion. And yet, California has a mega-project.
Contributed by Chriss Street. The liquidity of the Orange County Treasurer’s Investment Pool was hammered last week when the City of Tustin withdrew $40 million and the State of California announced its intentions to pull out $90 million. No other member of the Auditor-Controller bureaucracy was willing to accept the head job, following the resignations of the County Treasury Oversight Chairman, the Auditor-Controller, and the Assistant Auditor-Controller.
“The US is one of two major beef-exporting countries with no comprehensive traceability system,” said Erin Borror, economist at the Meat Export Federation. The other country is India. The issue was Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or Mad Cow Disease. Humans contract it by eating contaminated beef. It’s always fatal. Lack of traceability “places the US at risk if an outbreak occurs in this country,” Borror said. That was last November.
While all eyes are on Europe, California is hobbling along its own path to, well, a tsunami of last-minute bills. 665 bills are scheduled to be debated by policy committees from Monday through Thursday, the final days for 2012 legislation to get off the ground. California has some issues—its fiscal and economic policies haven’t been a raging success recently. Hence, numerous crucial proposals in that pile of bills. For example, a strip club tax.
Contributed by Chriss Street: In another abrupt surprise, the respected Chairman of the Orange County’s Treasury Oversight Committee resigned on April 16. It seems he was asked to read into the public record at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors a letter by county Treasurer Shari Freidenrich stating that she had complied with the county’s Investment Policy Statement mandates. The community was already reeling from discovery that….
Contributed by Chriss Street: Like the Titanic that ignored warnings and ran full-speed into a massive iceberg, Orange County is taking enormous financial risks rather than addressing its gapping cash-flow deficit. The county quietly entered into $518 million of illiquid and unsecured interest rate wagers, mostly financed from payroll and savings accounts of local schools and other government agencies.
Contributed by Chriss Street: Orange County’s financial crisis spirals out of control as the State of California filed a law suit to force return of $73.5 million of property tax revenue the County skimmed from schools and community colleges last November. At the time, it seemed bizarre that the “Most Conservative County in America” would increase spending by $145.8 million, then grab the school’s cash and cancel layoffs of 490 union workers.
Tuition at the California State University will be double of what it was in 2007-08. But it’s still not enough. Now CSU threatened taxpayers and prospective students with stunning enrollment cutbacks, unless—this smells of extortion—it gets its tax increases on the ballot and passed. University of California is also jacking up tuition and cutting enrollment. And yet, a lavish multi-billion-dollar building boom continues on campuses around the state.
Republicans are trying to tar President Obama with gas prices that are creeping up on $4 a gallon and are shooting for an all-time high. The strategy is working. Obama’s approval rating on handling gas prices has plunged. In San Francisco, gas is already $4.50. Yet across the Bay are five oil refineries that together are the largest exporters of petroleum products in the nation.