Good Economic News Will End Budget Fighting. Right?

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At some point, the California economy is going to recover. Joblessnes will subside. New tax revenues will pour into Sacramento, easing the big ongoing budget deficits.

And, quite naturally, this will end some of the endless political warfare over dollars.

Or not.

If you thought the fight over budget cuts has been bad -- and it has been, with delays and brinksmanship that forced the state to issue IOUs to pay some bills last year -- the fight over the revenues produced by any economic recovery is likely to be bitter. So many different interests have taken so many hits -- teachers have been fired, state workers have been furloughed, health and human services programs have been slashed, college students have seen their tuition increased -- that the line of those who want their pain eased by new money is likely to be long.

I glimpsed the beginnings of this fight on Monday outside the State Capitol. There, a handful of Democratic legislators were promoting a bill to institute a severance tax on oil produced in California and use the money for the state's general fund (which would divide the money among education and other major programs). If that proposal sounded familiar, it should. Other legislators have been backing such a tax--but that money would go almost exclusively to higher education. If legislators are fighting over what they'll do with money from taxes that haven't been raised yet, just wait until the money starts to flow again.

As nasty as the Great Recession has been in California, the recovery may be -- in terms of legislative rancor -- even worse.

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