Capitol Alert Breaking

Biggest contributors to spending growth


Spending jumped nearly 75 percent, from $5.8 billion a year to $10.1 billion, thanks not only to an 11,000-inmate increase in prison populations but sharply higher salaries for guards and other prison workers.

Vehicle license fees

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cut the car tax but promised to pay local governments who use the money from the state treasury anyway. State payments to local governments rose about $3 billion over the period, to $6.1 billion per year, as more cars hit the road and their value increased. In February, Schwarzenegger and legislators raised the car tax from .65 percent of car value to 1.15 percent, thus offsetting its local government payments by nearly $2 billion a year.


The biggest dollar increase has been in state support of K-12 education, from $28.8 billion in 2002-03 to $42.1 billion in 2007-08, but about half of that increase came from changes in the share of the local property tax given to schools, vis-à-vis that allocated to local governments, and didn't represent any dollar gain. The real increase in per-pupil spending for schools, after adjustment for inflation, was approximately 7 percent. Since then, however, as state revenues fell, the governor and Legislature slashed school appropriations to below the 2007-08 level. State K-12 spending is now approximately $36 billion, wiping out inflation-adjusted gains of the previous five years, and the Capitol is now wrangling over how much additional to cut from school budgets.

Other factors

Spending on Medi-Cal also outstripped population growth and inflation due to increased health care costs. Increases in most other major state expenditures were in line with inflation and population growth.