Tuesday, December 13, 2011

BREAKING: Jerry Brown Announces $1 Billion in Trigger Cuts

We were THIS CLOSE to a balanced budget!
In a piece of breaking news that we've been waiting to report since late June, the day of reckoning for California's budget has finally arrived. As reported by pretty much every news outlet in the state, Jerry Brown has announced $1 billion in mid-year "trigger cuts." About $250 million in state spending on school buses will be slashed. The rest of the cuts will come to higher education, Medi-Cal, libraries, counties, and social services. Largely because of improved tax revenue numbers in November, the cuts were lower than the Legislative Analyst's Office had expected.

Of course, the accounting on the trigger cuts doesn't account for the fact that state spending has outpaced the budget by some $2 billion this year. So, strictly speaking, these cuts don't represent a meaningful change in the broader pattern of out-of-control spending. What's worse, the Governor's remarks at the presser announcing these cuts only demonstrate how central he is to the problem. As Steven Harmon reported via Twitter, Brown discussed his $7 billion tax proposal in the context of these cuts by describing a frustrated and dicontented electorate that wants more government spending to reduce inequality. We'll apologize in advance if we're misrepresenting the Governor's remarks, as we can't locate a transcript anywhere. But if they're accurate, Brown is doing himself no favors by conflating his good-government argument for taxes with a class-warfare argument. Just as there's no amount of tax revenue that can satisfy Sacramento's urge to spend, there's no amount of redistribution that's going to satisfy Brown's supporters in California. Given the state's extreme lack of credibility when it comes to spending money wisely, the good-government argument is going to be tough enough to sell to the voters; the idea of solving California's problems via socialist redistribution, however, isn't going anywhere.