We all know the harm California’s broken budget system can do when the economy is struggling. But now we’re seeing the harm it can do when times are better.

You can see the dynamic in the way Sacramento has defined what should be good news – billions in unanticipated revenues above projections – as a problem. It’s a problem, the Legislative Analyst says, because budget formulas could gobble up all of the new money and more. It’s a problem, Republicans and more than a few Democrats suggest, because spending interests may want to overspend.

I’m sorry, but the only problem here is that the tax bonanza is a problem.

This is a state that has cut vital programs for years, underinvested in infrastructure, and charged some of the highest tax rates in the country. And so this is money that could be put to all those uses – if the state had a budget system that permitted real budgeting. It doesn’t. It has a set of formulas that constrain and confuse.

Conventional wisdom is that budget reform will only come during a recession. Well, we just had a recession, but no real budget reform (the majority-vote budget cancelled out by a new 2/3 supermajority for fees and taxes, as well as the convoluted new Prop 2). So maybe good times provide an opportunity to loosen the chains of budgeting and let state and local officials make choices and weigh priorities again.

It’s a problem that there’s so little conversation about doing just that.