The state of California has a $41 billion budget deficit. This is even worse when you realize its total budget is $143 billion, so the deficit is is 29 percent of the budget.
The planning advocates who frequent this blog will deny it, but it is no coincidence that California has the strongest smart-growth laws in the nation and the worst deficit of any state in the nation.
Land-use restrictions that crammed 94.5 percent of the state’s residents into just 5.1 percent of the state’s land also made the state’s housing the least-affordable in the nation — and some California cities the least-affordable in the world. This led to an exodus of people and jobs. The bursting of the housing bubble devastated many recent homebuyers and took the state’s (and world’s) economy with them.
Meanwhile, the state has overspent on high-cost transportation systems in five major urban areas, while stinting on the forms of transportation that people actually use. (Californians travel more than 400 billion passenger miles by auto in urban areas and take transit only 7 billion passenger miles.) This did little to relieve the traffic that makes Los Angeles and San Francisco-Oakland the worst-congested urban areas in the nation while it added to the state’s deficits.
Smart growth by itself probably wouldn’t have destroyed California’s economy and budget. But it is a symptom of a state that has its priorities all wrong.