Base closings a culprit in state economy
When Californians complain that this state doesn’t receive its share of the federal pie – getting back only about 78 cents in federal spending for every dollar paid in taxes – they are in effect slamming the whole California Congressional delegation.
The latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that California ranked 43rd among the states in per capita federal spending.
A big reason for this is the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC), which presided over two rounds of military base closures in the 1990s and another in 2005.
Another factor bringing down the state’s federal per capita spending rank is that, percentage-wise, Florida, West Virginia and several other states have many more retirees than California drawing Social Security and other federal benefits.
So while pensions paid to Californians average about $2,270 a year (out of $8,784 in federal spending for every man, woman and child in California), in Florida they average about 50 percent higher, $3,404 a person.
That’s the only reason Florida ranks 29th in federal spending, 14 places ahead of California.
But the military budget is the biggest reason per capita spending in California ranks so low. This may seem a bit incongruous with California playing host to huge Naval bases in San Diego and neighboring Coronado, the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps complex and Fairfield’s Travis Air Force Base.
But until recently California had many more military bases than today. Among those closed have been the Long Beach Naval Shipyard; the El Toro Marine Air Base in Orange County, three Air Force bases in Riverside, San Bernardino and Sacramento counties; the Presidio of San Francisco and the Army’s training facility at Ft. Ord in Monterey County. All fell victim to BRAC’s cuts, which required yes or no votes on each full package, with no amendments allowed. Those conditions prevented Californians in Congress for doing much to mitigate the slashes.
Because of the base closures, the military spent just $10.3 billion on salaries in California in 2010.
By comparison, military salaries in small-population states such as Alaska ($3.2 billion), Alabama ($3.6 billion), Hawaii ($7.2 billion) and Georgia ($12.5 billion) were far higher on a per capita basis. Texas, with about two-thirds California’s population, saw military salaries of $19.7 billion.
Do you think the extra $9 billion might have had anything to do with Texas’ considerably lower unemployment statistics?
The BRAC decisions also are reflected in federal procurement spending. Without all those closed military bases to supply and support, the military spent far less on food and other items here than it did in many other states.
Without any doubt, the lowered federal spending caused by BRAC contributes significantly to economic problems of many kinds in California. There is less housing demand from military families here than at any time since the start of World War II.
That helps fuel the foreclosure crisis, in turn contributing mightily to unemployment.