California Schadenfreude

From Zero Hedge:

The hoped-for April spike in personal income tax revenues for the State of California fell once again below theoveroptimistic assumptions used to get the budget to “balance.” Instead of the $9.4 billion that the government had counted on collecting in April, it only collected $7.4 billion, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office. A 21% shortfall! In addition, corporate taxes were $450 million below forecast. After months of “disappointing” tax revenues, the total shortfall in income taxes now amounts to $3.5 billion for fiscal 2012 ending June 30.

The budget, supposedly balanced when it was passed last summer, had been spewing red ink from day one. Tax revenues were one problem. Expenditures were the other. The most recent re-revisions pegged the deficit at $9.2 billion. That was a few weeks ago. Now it’s going to be re-re-revised to nearly $12 billion.

Just how bankrupt does a budgeting process have to be for a budget that is supposedly in balance turn out to be $12 billion overdrawn barely 9 months later?  I have a California state tax refund on my desk -- better cash it quick or else its going to be replaced by scrip again.

The same article has this interesting tidbit about California high speed rail:

The CHSRA plan assumes that it would cost 10 cents per passenger mile (the average cost of carrying one passenger one mile at a given load factor) when international high-speed rail systems averaged 43 cents per mile, according to a report that just surfaced. The low-cost leader was Italy with 34 cents per mile; at the upper end were Germany and Japan with 50 cents per mile; Amtrak’s Acela Express, though not truly high speed, was in the middle with 44 cents per mile. And in California, it’s going to be 10 cents per mile?

The CHSRA correctly assumes that train tickets compete with air fares and the cost of driving, which, despite our incessant complaints, are lower in California than overseas. Thus, the US market requires cheaper tickets. And to make the project appear profitable, and thus more digestible for the taxpayer, the CHSRA lowered its projected operating costs to less than a quarter of the international average.

But if actual operating costs are 43 cents per mile and not 10 cents per mile, annual subsidies of $2 billion to $3 billion would be required just to keep the trains running, according to the report. Yet, AB3034, the California High-Speed Train Bond Act, makes these subsidies illegal. A conundrum that the Legislature, the Administration, and the CHSRA have so far successfully ignored.


  1. alanstorm:

    "The hoped-for April spike..."

    Government by hope? Is this part of the Hope'n'Change we were promised?

  2. Ted Rado:

    All economic activity that possibly can should be left to competitive private enterprise. If it is economically sound to do something, investors will be drawn to it. With a few exceptions (the military, roads, fiew and police, etc.), the government should keep out of it.

  3. Mark2:

    @Ted why fire? City could easily contract out fire services to a private company. In fact San Diego County is planning to do that for a large south east corridor.

    I understand your others.

  4. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master:

    >>> A conundrum that the Legislature, the Administration, and the CHSRA have so far successfully ignored.

    If you pass it, you will appreciate it later on when you see how wonderful it is, and then you'll want that to change so it doesn't Go Away.... and so you don't throw away billions of your tax dollars, of course.

  5. Corky Boyd:

    "But if actual operating costs are 43 cents per mile and not 10 cents per mile...",

    The 43 cents is the average fare, not the average cost. In general all high speed rail loses money. The only line that claims to be profitable is France's Paris-Lyon, and that is just one line of the out the entire French system. Costs are most certainly well above 43 cents.

    High speed rail is not market driven. All are government owned national vanity projects, designed to enhance the prestige of each nation. China is finding they pushed too hard. There they are cutting speed and service because they are in some cases unable to meet interest costs on the loans. The ticket costs are so expensive, the average Chinese still takes the old slow trains due to costs.

    Our federal government wanted to dump the operating expenses on the states while they got the glory of giving seed money. In Republican states Ohio, Wisconsin and my state Florida, realistic evaluations said don't touch high speed rail with a ten foot pole.

    The federal plan is grossly flawed from another point of view that nobody has written about. It is patchwork of 150-180 mph trains and trackage along with 110 mph ones. There can be no Wasington to Orlando service with the same equipment, nor San Francico to Seattle.

    If the administraton were serious, they would designate Amtrak the provider. But that would mean they would have to eat the losses and cost overruns. They just want the states on the hook for the mess they created.