Facebook and the California Budget

Earlier this week I sat attended the Spring Institute of the Child Development Policy Institute and heard about the devastating effect the current California budget and the governor’s proposals are likely to have on education in California and early education in particular.

The day after was the Facebook IPO. With the company valued at around $100 billion, an unprecedented amount, the IPO created a lot of personal wealth for many Californians. That means they may be paying a lot of taxes. Back of the envelope calculations indicated that California might get a windfall of $2 billion over the current and coming fiscal years. The previous big listing of this type was Goggle in 2004, which led to about $7 billion in tax revenue over the subsequent three years.

I have a hard time understanding how a state that has such positive financial events can’t make its budget work. There is nothing like this happening in the other 49 states. There just aren’t any $100 billion IPOs in Texas or Florida. And yet, we can’t seem to make our state work.

Perhaps it is this kind of occasional windfall in California that makes our budget system and state politics so dysfunctional. The state relies much more on personal capital gains taxes than any other state. Revenues therefore are unpredictable, can’t be scheduled and are dependent on factors completely outside the government’s control. Not a good way to run your shop, is it?

Perhaps we need to wait for the next Google or Facebook to invest again in education? A sad prospect.

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