California debt level higher than previously believed

September 25, 2012
California debt level higher than previously believed

California Governor Jerry Brown has led a high-profile effort to close the state’s budget gap since taking office in 2011.

Earlier this year, Brown signed a budget that contains deep cuts to public services. At the time, Brown said the budget “reflects tough choices that will get California back on track.”

The budget also assumes voters will approve $8 billion worth of temporary tax hikes when they hit the ballot box in November. Brown has campaigned heavily in support of the tax increase, calling it necessary to close the state’s $15.7 billion budget deficit.

However, on September 20, the State Budget Crisis Task Force – an independent organization dedicated to studying states’ fiscal problems – published a report indicating that California’s outstanding public debt is much greater than officials previously believed. The group’s researchers uncovered a significant amount of financial liability that did not show up in the state’s earlier tallies, putting California’s total debt level between $167 and $335 billion.

Much of this “hidden” debt stemmed from pensions and healthcare coverage promised to public workers, as well as delayed highway maintenance and a project to bring local drinking water up to federal standards.

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