Just getting people into crowded cities for work requires increasingly more tax dollars to build longer, wider freeways — or improving rapid transit. Either way, it's public money.
In 1950, when California's population was almost 11 million, state spending per $100 of personal income was roughly $5, according to the state Department of Finance. In 1975, when there were about 22 million of us, state spending amounted to $7.50 per $100 of income. Today, with 37 million Californians, Sacramento is spending $9.60.
There doesn't seem to be much clamor from the public for cutting back on any specific service.
Just one more personal illustration: Back when there were 15 million Californians, my registration fees at San Jose State ran $55 per year. Today, students there pay $2,772. At the University of California, it's $6,571. The population boom certainly has been costing students.
But we can have it all — the mountain paradises, affordable universities, civilized commutes — if we're willing to pay, which is something anti-tax Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn't want to hear.
"We're not going to stop growth, nor should we," says state Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), chairman of the Natural Resources and Water Committee. "What's really wrong is that there's a huge disconnect between what we say we want and our willingness to have an honest discussion about how to pay for it. If I were to sum up, that's the single biggest issue facing not only government but society.
"Everybody thinks somebody else should take care of it."
Somebody better knock down some pine trees.