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California Journal of Politics and Policy

Managing Editor: Lubenow, Gerald

Ed. by Citrin, Jack / Cain, Bruce / Noll, Roger

4 Issues per year

Debt Burdens of California’s State and Local Governments

1California State University, Department of Public Policy and Administration, 6000 J Street, 95819-6081 Sacramento, CA, USA

2Michigan State University

Corresponding author: Robert W. Wassmer, California State University, Department of Public Policy and Administration, 6000 J Street, 95819-6081 Sacramento, CA, USA

Citation Information: . Volume 4, Issue 2, Pages 49–76, ISSN (Online) 1944-4370, DOI: 10.1515/cjpp-2012-0003, June 2012

Abstract

Concern over the amount of state and local government debt in California and other states has been somewhat widely expressed. The purpose of this paper is to consider how policymakers can best evaluate these concerns regarding the level of traditional public debt in California (or other states). We do this by examining how the debt of California’s subnational (state and local) governments has changed between 1992 and 2007, and then compares these changes in debt held by California governments to changes in the national average, and to changes in other specific states. Since additional information on total sub-national debt by state will not be reported until after 2012, we also examine the borrowing behavior of California’s subnational governments during the Great Recession (2008–2010). Again, we contrast borrowing by California governments during this period to the past behavior of California governments and to the borrowing behavior of governments in other states. We conclude that through 2010, California’s state and local government debt is not as bad as some have thought.

Keywords: California state local government debt

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