The Oakland Tribune has a great piece explaining why California’s budget crisis is so much worse than almost every other state in the union. Ever wonder why California can’t just go back to the way things were before the housing bubble? Trib writers Paul Rogers and Leigh Poitinger have the answer: we’re hooked on certain kinds of spending and tax cuts, and can’t summon the will to do anything about it. Reviewing an audit of California’s finances, the two reporters found that California’s deficit is at least $10 billion higher than inflation and population growth would predict. The main culprit: prisons, which have been stuffed with inmates since Three Strikes and other ought laws were passed, California now spends $4.1 billion more on prisons than inflation and population growth indicate. Next up: health care for children, the elderly, and the poor, which has risen by $2.9 billion more than it would normally have done, thanks to an expansion of Medi-Cal eligibility. Finally (and this can’t be a shock to anyone), Schwarzenegger’s repeal of the vehicle license fee has bled $6 billion from the state’s coffers. Bring it back! Tax those cars!