Dan Walters

Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Sunday, Mar. 30, 2014 – 12:00 am
Last Modified: Sunday, Mar. 30, 2014 – 12:11 pm

One of the conceits of Capitol politicians – much on display during this election year – is that they finally balanced the state budget after years of deficits.

Gov. Jerry Brown is especially prone to making the claim, particularly when he grants audiences, as he often does, to out-of-state journalists who don’t know better.

It simply isn’t true, or at least isn’t when one looks at the state’s finances holistically, rather than piecemeal.

To Brown, et al, the budget is balanced because it provides enough money to pay the obligations that he and the Legislature choose to pay. But when what they choose not to pay is included, the budget is billions, even tens of billions, of dollars out of balance.

They choose, for instance, not to include a $70-plus billion shortfall in the trust fund that pays teachers’ pensions. The California State Teachers’ Retirement System says it needs another $4.5 billion a year to cover the unfunded liability that’s growing by $20 million a day.

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