Stanford Studies and State Spending Issues

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

One Stanford University study says that California needs to spend billions more on the state’s PreK-12 public school system. Another Stanford study says that too-generous public pensions are robbing core government programs of needed funds. Will the two disparate ideas end up in a budget package?

A Stanford University and Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) report entitled Getting Down to Facts II comes ten years after an initial look at California’s education system taking into account all the changes over the past decade. Most newsworthy out of the report was the finance item declaring the need for a 38% increase in education funding to make California students ready for college and careers.

The dollar increase was pegged at about $25 billion, equivalent to about 19% of the state’s general fund.

An earlier study out of Stanford University by the Institute for Economic Policy Research written by former state assemblyman Joe Nation noted that government pension contributions increased 400% from 2002-3 to 2017-18 and that state and local government’s contributions to pension funds would continue to rise much faster that governments’ operation budgets squeezing core functions.

Reforming the pension system to rein in dramatic increases that are reducing funds for other government missions doesn’t mean that education funding that the PACE study experts want will be met. There is not an equivalent dollar for dollar match.

But in considering the two studies there seems to be an opportunity for an honest discussion of government expenditures and spending issues.

As Governor-elect Newsom puts together his first budget he will feel the pressure from dominate Democrats in the legislature and the interest groups that help elect them to increase spending. He would be wise to take a page from Governor Jerry Brown’s governing philosophy and row a little on each side of the canoe.

Meeting all the spending requirements demanded by advocates would amount to an unbearable burden of taxpayers. Where will the new administration go to prove it is concerned with government efficiencies in minding tax dollars?

Taking on the pension issue would be a good place to implement spending restraint while at the same time dealing with those interests that demand more revenue. The different Stanford studies can open the debate.



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