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Policy Study

California’s Spending by the Numbers

A Historic Look at State Spending from Gov. Pete Wilson to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Since former Gov. George Deukmejian’s final budget in Fiscal Year 1990-91, California’s spending has skyrocketed 181 percent. Spending nearly tripled from $51.4 billion in FY 1990-91 to $144.5 billion in FY 2008-09. Are California’s taxpayers getting higher quality services than they did in the 90s? They should be. In FY 1990-91 the state spent $1,350 per capita. Today, the government spends $2,644 per person.

Politicians often blame falling revenues for California’s budget woes, but state revenues jumped 167 percent between 1990 and 2008. In FY 1990-91, the state took in over $38 billion in General Fund revenues. By FY 2008-09 revenues were $102 billion. If California had simply limited its spending increases to the 4.38 percent average increase in the state’s consumer price index and population growth each year since FY 1990-91, the state would be sitting on a $15 billion surplus right now.


Adam Summers is a senior policy analyst at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets. He has written extensively on privatization, government reform, law and economics, and various other political and economic topics.

Summers' articles have been published by the Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union-Tribune, Orange County Register, Los Angeles Daily News, Baltimore Sun, and numerous others.

Summers earned an M.A. in Economics from George Mason University and Bachelor of Arts degrees in Economics and Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles.