When is a prediction of a $1.9 billion shortfall actually considered good news?
In deficit-battered, recession-weary California, that's the case.
It sounds strange, until you consider that it sounds a whole lot better than the staggering $41 billion deficit projected at the end of 2008 -- and much better than the $25 billion hole that the state's Legislative Analyst was forecasting in 2010. And much more rosy than the $16 billion shortfall Gov. Jerry Brown was projecting just last spring.
On Wednesday, the Analyst's office -- respected for its nonpartisanship -- said its $1.9 billion deficit estimate covers the next year-and-a-half. The report cast the state's recovering finances in a favorable light, thanks to earlier budget cuts and the voter approval of Proposition 30.
"The additional, temporary taxes provided by Proposition 30 have combined to bring California a promising moment: the possible end of a decade of acute state budget challenges," the LAO report said.
In fact, the report floated the possibility of the state actually running a surplus of up to a billion dollars by 2014.
Let me be the first to predict that California will not have a budget surplus in 2014. Nor will it run "only" a $2 billion deficit.
By my estimation, California's budget deficit will run at least an order of magnitude higher -- at $20 billion plus. You can stick a fork in the Golden State.