California Gov. Jerry Brown called a hasty press conference Thursday afternoon to release the 2012-2013 state budget after a copy was accidentally posted on the Internet four days early by the Department of Finance.
He told reporters that one of his priorities was to “pay back the wall of debt” and avoid fiscal chaos that is currently affecting European nations.
The Los Angeles Times, which got an early copy of the budget and did a quick analysis, reported the following highlights:
– it calls for $4.8 billion in cuts to public schools if voters reject the tax increases Brown has on the November ballot
– it says the state faces a $9.2 billion deficit
– it anticipates closing the current multi-billion dollar budget gap through a combination of spending cuts and the tax increases
– it says even if tax increases become a reality, welfare will be slashed by nearly $1 billion and Medi-Cal by $842 million
– it shows a better fiscal picture than a year ago
During the presentation Thursday afternoon, Brown remained firm, but optimistic.
“In January 2011, I proposed a budget that combined deep cuts with a temporary extension of some existing taxes. It was a balanced approach that would have finally closed our budget gap. In the end, the taxes were not extended and massive cuts – totaling $16 billion – were enacted.”
“The 2011 budget did, however, lay the foundation for budget stability. It cut the annual budget shortfall by three-quarters – from $20 billion to $5 billion or less. It shrunk state government, reduced our borrowing costs and gave local governments more authority to make decisions.
“The budget I am submitting today keeps the cuts made last year and adds new ones. The stark truth is that without some new taxes, damaging cuts to schools, universities, public safety and our courts will only increase.”
Brown expressed repeatedly that if anyone had any better ideas, he was willing to give them close consideration.
“Budget work is an art, not a science,” he explained. “We have cut the structural deficit substantially and have the potential of eliminating the deficit, but this will be very difficult for the legislature to accept.”
Local control is also something he wants to restore, giving counties, cities and school districts more authority to make decisions on items that affect them locally.
“I have confidence that the local democracy is as vigorous as our state democracy,” he added.
He also acknowledged that there are roadblocks put up by other agencies, including the federal government, which has to grant permission for cuts in the Medi-Cal program. Brown said that, while some cuts are very difficult, that the cuts have to come from everywhere because “we can’t spend what we don’t have.”
“We’re in a box,” he continued. “California has more needs, more desires and more demands than our money allows. This is the best I can put together, after looking at the numbers. I defy anyone in this room to make any more changes that are more palatable.”
The budget deadline was January 10, which is when Brown intended to release the numbers, but an online posting forced him to move up the deadline. Now the budget goes to the Legislature for approval, a process that could take several months.