Explaining Southern California's economy

Will the 'Facebook effect' really help California's finances?

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The Facebook website is displayed on a laptop computer. Will the IPO cure California's sickly finances?

Now that Facebook has set a date for its IPO — May 18 — produced a "road show" video and priced its offering at somewhere between $28 and $35 a share, there's renewed discussion of how the $90-billion-ish debut of this California company will improve the state's troubled finances. Here's the L.A. Times:

California is hoping Facebook will have a “Google effect” on the state’s economy. Capital gains tax receipts from stock sales rose to $54 billion in 2005 from $39.7 billion in 2004, the year Google went public, according to Franchise Tax Board figures.

When Facebook executives and employees cash in shares, the state takes a 10% cut of the profits.

In February, Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor became the first state official to estimate what Facebook's big Wall Street debut could mean for California's ailing budget. He said the IPO could pump nearly $2.5 billion into state coffers over the next five years.

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California's 'structural deficit': What does it mean?

California Gov. Jerry Brown released his 2012 budget plan yesterday. It contains a lot of numbers, but one set of them is especially important: the size of the "structural deficit." The 2011-12 fiscal year is projected to end up $4.1 million the red. If there are no new taxes or cuts to spending in 2012-13, as Brown has proposed, the shortfall is expected to be $5.1 million. That makes the total deficit for 2012-13 $9.2 billion. 

The chart above shows what this looks like over time. 

So what exactly is a structural deficit? Basically, it's the deficit you can't escape. Here's a snappy defintion, from DaveManuel.com:

In a structural deficit, things are so out of balance that a country (or state, or municipality, etc.) will post a deficit regardless of how well the economy is doing. In a strong economy, revenues (tax receipts, etc) rise due to increased economic activity (more jobs, more spending, etc). With a structural deficit, the strength of the economy is irrelevant - a deficit will be posted regardless.. 

How do countries get rid of structural deficits? 

1. Cut spending. 

2. Raise revenues (usually through tax increases). 

Neither of these options are too appealing for politicians, which is why many structural deficits continue to linger. 

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