One problem is that CA state revenue is very volatile, which means you hear about us not balancing our budget when times are bad. Here's an interesting study in revenue volatility in California:
- Tax on capital gains and stock options is very volatile and represents a large source of revenue for California (from $2b in 95 to $17b in 00 to $5b in 02)
- Prop 98 guarantees a school funding level, regardless of state revenues
Not mentioned, because it is talking about revenue volatility, is Prop 13, which basically prevents increases in property taxes as homes appreciate.
But the reason the numbers in California are so big is just population. 37.3m in CA, 1.3m in NH. If you look at state revenue per capita, they don't indicate anything hugely different:
New Hampshire: $4324 (40th in the US), California $5067 (23rd in the US)