Capitol Alert

Poverty, taxes and milk among California economy facts in LAO rundown

The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s observation that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,” rings as true for California as for any other political venue. Opinions flow abundantly and with great vigor in Sacramento; today we get some facts to balance them out.

The good wonks at the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor’s office have published their annual CalFacts guide to the nation’s largest state, and it is marbled like a fine steak with fascinating facts. It’s worth your time to read it in its entirety by clicking here, but in the meantime here are some tantalizing tidbits:

▪ You’ve probably heard California is the nation’s breadbasket, and the LAO confirms the state’s $45 billion in agriculture sales in 2012 led the nation. The most lucrative product? It wasn’t strawberries or lettuce or grapes but milk, generating some $7 billion in 2012. Dairy regulation is actually a complex and high-stakes, albeit obscure, policy area.

▪ Poverty abounds in California. The state’s 16 percent poverty rate exceeds the national average of 14.8 percent; under an alternative measure known was the Research Supplemental Poverty Measure, the California poverty rate soars to 23.4 percent.

▪ Still, some Californians are prospering. The state’s $60,000 median income surpasses the national median of $52,000. That being said, rents are expensive. In large metro areas from Los Angeles to Fresno to Sacramento, Californians spend a bigger chunk of their paychecks on housing than residents of other states’ metro areas.

▪ We’re headed for an elder boom and Latino predominance. The number of Californians aged 65 to 74 will rise by around 65 percent between 2010 and 2020. And white Californians are scheduled to officially lose their narrow plurality by the 2020 federal census, when Latinos are projected to make up 39 percent of the state’s population against 38 percent for whites. The Department of Finance has said the change will actually occur this year. Another sign of the state’s diversity: 2.7 million kids speak a language other than English at home.

▪ Education involves a lot of dollars and a lot of jobs. Over half of the state’s $108 billion budget flowed to K-12 schools and colleges. And a third of the 354,000-employee state government workforce – which earned a collective $26 billion last year – is employed by the University of California or California State University.

▪ Most General Fund revenue comes from personal income taxes (accounting for around 65 percent of the total in 2011) a notoriously volatile revenue source. The top one percent of Californians paid half of all income taxes in 2012. Meanwhile, corporations have been paying a lower share of their profits in taxes. After topping out at around 10 percent, the figure declined to about four percent.

Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543.