On August 19, 2010, Americans marked the national Cost of Government Day (COGD), the date of the calendar year when the average American finishes paying off his or her share of federal, state and local spending and regulatory burden. Taxpayers had to work 231 days out of the year just to meet all costs imposed by government.
However, California taxpayers have had to wait even longer, until today, August 27, to reach their Cost of Government Day. This means Golden State workers toiled 239 days in 2010 just to pay for their bloated government. Only residents of six states and the District of Columbia work longer to pay off the costs of government.
Cost of Government Day is calculated every year by the Americans for Tax Reform Foundation and the Center for Fiscal Accountability. While other indices look primarily at taxation as a measure of the cost imposed by government, the annual Cost of Government Day Report takes into account the total spending burden as a percentage of GDP coupled with government regulations, an oft-forgotten, but significant burden also borne by the economy.
It’s important to note that taxes are one way by which the government finances its spending – they don’t paint the entire picture of government presence in the economy. They are, however, a metric for ballooning government—in the last eight years, taxes have gone up by $402.46 for every man, woman, and child in the state. In total, this amounts to an astounding $15.3 billion in new taxes. Taxes give the state the excuse it needs to grow, unfettered by constraints on spending. And grow the California government has.
Golden State lawmakers continue to promote the myth that the structural deficit they are faced with each year is a result of a lethargic revenue stream. This is an indefensible claim: state spending jumped by over 167 percent since 1990. Legislators are quick to blame the mandatory 2/3 vote requirement for the budget impasse, but the truth is that if California had limited its spending to the consumer price index and population growth, the state would have achieved a $15 billion surplus by last year. Instead, they are sitting on a $20 billion deficit today.