By Dan Walters
February 12, 2017 – 4:00 PM
After last November’s elections were over, the combatants filed year-end reports on what they had spent for and against legislative candidates and ballot measures and it was close to $700 million – nearly two-thirds more than spending during the previous election cycle.
That’s very big money to anyone not named Gates, Buffett, Ellison – or maybe Trump.
However, it doesn’t count another $600 million-plus spent during the two-year election cycle by various interest groups on lobbying the Legislature and state regulatory agencies. Nor does it include millions spent on other aspects of influencing politics that don’t show up in state filings.
It would be fair to conclude that state-level spending on politics of all kinds approached $1.5 billion during that two-year period.
Big money? Yes. But in another context, it was chicken feed.
California has the fifth- or sixth-largest economy in the world, depending on how some of the more erratic European economies are performing at the moment. The state’s output of goods and services is roughly $2.5 trillion a year.
No small share of that economy is affected by the decisions of state politicians and those they appoint to various boards and commissions.
The state budget alone, including more than $100 billion in federal funds, is close to $250 billion.
Californians spend another $300 billion-plus per year on insurance premiums, mostly regulated by the state Department of Insurance and its elected commissioner, or other state agencies.
Add at least $100 billion a year spent on electricity, natural gas, water, telephone and television service, much of it decreed by the state Public Utilities Commission.
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