Via Matt Welch, in response to a Paul Krugman editorial lamenting that California's fiscal problems are all due to prop 13.
Here is where the traditional liberal argument loses me. The California budget "emergency" isn't a tax problem, it's a spending problem. State spending in the past two decades, as this Reason Foundation report [PDF] spells out, has increased 5.37 percent a year (and nearly 7 percent for the past decade), compared to a population-plus-inflation growth rate of 4.38 percent. If the budget growth rate had been limited to the population-inflation growth rate, the state would be sitting on a $15 billion surplus right now. Surely enough to dip into during a real emergency. What's more, despite this alleged tax straightjacket, Californians manage to still pay 21.9 percent in state and local taxes, compared to 14.5 percent for Texas.
As has been the case for decades (the gun-to-the-head federal strategy to force 55 mph speed limits and seat belt laws come to mind), the feds are sending money to the states with many strings attached. Apparently, Arizona is running afoul of one of those provisions:
Arizona's receipt of $1.6 billion in stimulus funding, including more than $300 million already being spent to help keep the state in the black, is at risk because a federal agency says the state is not in compliance with a prohibition against health-care rollbacks.
Arizona could lose the money if the federal determination stands or if state law isn't changed to eliminate a health-care requalification provision that was the basis of the determination, state officials said Monday.
According to Brewer's letter, the agency determined that the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System's requirement that some enrollees requalify every six months instead of annually violated a stimulus-program prohibition against tightened eligibility standards, methodologies or procedures for a state's Medicaid program.
There is something supremely irritating about Federal bailouts to states that are tied to restrictions that make it more difficult for states to close their budget shortfalls on their own. It's almost as if Congress wants to institutionalize dependency on the Feds (where have we seen that before?)
Apparently, in the spirit of the retroactive tax-taking of the AIG deferred compensation payments, the restrictions are retroactive to state actions taken as early as July 1, 2008, meaning that Obama is asking states to roll back legislation that was passed months before he was even elected as a condition of getting the cash.
The actions causing problems for Arizona occurred in September, 2008, and were, according to our governor, the result of legislation passed in June of 2008.