A modest proposal to balance California's budget

California's financial straits need radical solutions. How about these?

Eric Risberg / AP
California Gov.-elect Jerry Brown celebrates his election win during a rally with his wife, Anne Gus Brown, in Oakland, Calif. on Nov. 2.

Does Jerry Brown really want the job? Here are the facts about the budget he will inherit. Apparently his predecessor did him no favors. I expected that a macho man would have stood up and said "hasta la vista public pensions". Anticipating that Jerry Brown listens to economists and cares about what we have to say, permit me to offer some budget balancing ideas. All of these are meant as 1/2 jokes --- I've learned that many readers don't know when I am joking and when I'm not. Strange.

1. Fire all gardeners within the UC System --- each day at UCLA and other UC campuses there are countless facility management guys (I've never seen a woman doing this) using noisy, polluting leaf blowers to blow leaves in random patterns and then create more work for themselves to do it again. It fills the air with dust, bad smells and noise and serves no purpose. Let the leaves fall. Let the grass grow. In fact, get rid of the grass and plant some native plants to save $ on water and upkeep. Just let it go the way Mother Nature wanted it to look.

2. Tax tourists --- California is filled with tourists who come to our great state to have fun. I welcome them but they should pay for the unique experience California offers. The sales tax on their meals and purchases and hotel stays are not sufficient. There should be a "passport" tax for their short trip to see us. I believe that demand is inelastic and they wouldn't substitute to going to Kansas instead. We could charge international tourists a higher short term passport tax than domestic visitors.

3. Bring back the car registration tax and make it an increasing function of the price of vehicle you drive. So, if you drive a $65,000 Mercedes ---- the tax is 1% of its value and you owe $650. If you drive a $2000 1995 Taurus, you owe $20. In a state with 20 million vehicles --- if this tax yields $100 a vehicle this yields $2 billion bucks. Not bad!

4. Tax Lakers tickets --- now that the team is great, people will pay a markup until Kobe retires. At $10 surcharge per home game * 50 games (including playoffs) and 20,000 seats would yield $100 million per year. Not bad!

5. Raise parking prices everywhere --- especially at peak times (make Don Shoup proud).

6. Raise the retirement age for public pensions to 62. We are not Greece.

7. Tie public sector union cost of living increases to the change in the stock market say July 1st to the next July 1st. If the stock market falls, no raise.

8. Following the success that Paul Romer has had with Aplia, introduce information technology in public school classrooms to replace teachers. This will standardize the quality of education and students appear to like computers and computers do not need incentives to work hard and do not need pensions.
Paul Romer's Aplia Software

I have more ideas and I await Jerry Brown's call. If he is looking for a head economist I will serve and I am even willing to visit Sacramento to talk with him.


The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. This post originally ran on greeneconomics.blogspot.com.

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