California Money

Capitol Alert
The latest on California politics and government
September 30, 2013

Jerry Brown has repeatedly pledged to tear down what he calls California’s “wall of debt.”

But Brown’s definition of that debt wall – about $30 billion in accumulated deficits from recent state budgets – is less than 10 percent of the debt that state and local governments have amassed, according to a new compilation by the California Taxpayers Association, if one includes unfunded liabilities for public employee pensions.

Cal-Tax researchers counted $443 billion in state and local debts, roughly two-thirds of it carried by the state and the other third by local agencies. That’s the equivalent of a fifth of the state’s annual economic output and amounts to $11,600 for each of California’s 38 million residents.

The debts included state and local bonds, more than $9 billion owed to the federal government for unemployment insurance payments, and $21.7 billion in budgetary borrowing and deferred payments, mostly to schools. But the biggest debts, by far, are for public employee pensions and health care not covered by trust funds.

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