Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Aftermath of the Trigger Cuts

As we (and most of the state's other political observers) noted yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown has announced $1 billion in mid-year "trigger cuts" to California's budget. A detailed breakdown comes to us from the always-reliable Kevin Yamamura at the Sacramento Bee. Already, the announcement has provoked a range of entirely predictable reactions. Let's break them down.

Litigation: In a sign of just how much people love their automobiles in Los Angeles, Brown had barely finished announcing the cuts when the LA Unified School District announced it was suing to block $248 million in cuts to school busing. We'll give you a moment to get past the surprise of hearing that the cuts have triggered a lawsuit. LAUSD is required, under a 1981 court order, to provide busing to some 35,000 students, and must bus an additional 13,000 students with disabilities. Taking funds from classroom instruction to make up for the busing cuts will leave LAUSD spending less per pupil than other districts, which Superintendent John Deasy argues violates students' constitutional right to equal education opportunity. Stay tuned.

Meaningless gestures of protest: According to the San Bernardino Sun, some 60 Inland Empire residents gathered in downtown Riverside last night to freeze their butts off and stage a "vigil" in protest of the triggers. We're sympathetic to the concerns of those who will be directly affected by these cuts — one of the protesters interviewed by the Sun has a developmentally disabled sister who will be affected by the social-service cuts — but let's be honest: Jerry Brown has made it clear that he doesn't care much for the plight of Californians who are represented by Republicans.

A holiday from logic: Unsurprisingly, Governor Brown used the trigger cut announcement as a chance to flog his plan to raise taxes next year, and higher taxes on the rich seemed to be on the minds of many of the Riverside "vigil" attendees. Yet, as Dan Walters points out here, this makes no sense: if Sacramento can make $1 billion in spending cuts while largely sparing K-12 schools and public safety, and the state's economy is (in Brown's estimation) improving, why do they need $7 billion more to spend on these things? Moreover, the trigger cuts are not the fault of insufficiently generous wealthy Californians: if you're blaming anyone, you have to blame Brown and the Democrats in the Legislature (since they had no input on the budget, we'll give the Republicans a pass here). The cuts are a direct consequence of the decision to cover a $4 billion budget hole with a gimmick rather than a real solution. Assuming that $4 billion in unanticipated tax revenues would arrive to plug the gap was preposterous in the context of the state's ongoing recession. And it's because of this terrible, lazy decision that cuts are being implemented now.


  1. since they had no input on the budget, we'll give the Republicans a pass here

    Remember the vaporizing of the redevelopment district agencies? Does their fighting that not count?

  2. It's not that their fighting doesn't count. It's that Brown and the Dems completely froze them out of negotiations when they abandoned the tax-extension plan in the 11th hour; both budgets passed by the Legislature were simple-majority budgets. Regardless of your feelings on the trigger cuts, the Repubs were 0% responsible for coming up with the idea.