Brown’s Tiny Projected Budget Deficit Doesn’t Matter

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Gov. Brown projects a $1.6 billion budget deficit, and that’s being treated as news. It isn’t. That’s less than 1 percent of the overall state budget, which is volatile because of a broken governing system that Brown declines to fix, on the grounds that fixes are unreasonable.

But the deficit is treated as though it were news, and as if it were important. Which is too bad. Because California faces big and truly important deficits.

We have a deficit of housing—indeed, we’ll need to build 3.5 million homes by 2025 to fill it, according to McKinsey. We have massive deficits in infrastructure construction and maintenance; on roads and bridge alone, that deficit is $130 billion and growing to 100 times the size of the projected annual budget deficit. And we have huge deficits in skilled workers and college graduates that reflect the gap between what we give our schools in support, and what they need.

It’s time to worry less about the budget deficit. And more about changing our system so we can finally address these far more significant deficits.

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