If History Is Any Judge, Gov. Brown’s Budget Speaks Volumes
Jerry Brown is a one-term governor.
If history is any judge.
There are two entwined, long-standing traditions in the Capitol.
One is the habit of chief executives in their last year in office to leave what amounts to a burning brown paper bag filled with dog-doo on the front porch of the next occupant of the corner office, ringing the doorbell, and then running off to laugh uproariously as they try to stomp out the flame.
The father of the current occupant of the corner office did just that to Ronald Reagan, forcing Reagan to embrace what is still the largest, by percentage, tax increase in California history.
Campaigning, Reagan vowed, “I will not raise taxes. My feet are in concrete on this.” Famously, when he reversed his no taxes stand he said at a press conference: “The sound you hear is concrete cracking.”
The tax increase was carried by a freshman GOP state senator named George Deukmejian.
When George Deukmejian left office as governor at the end of 1989, the state’s economy was starting to unravel from the end of the Cold War and the collapse of California’s aerospace and defense industries. His successor, Pete Wilson, had to scrape off the bottom of his wingtips.
And the budget approved by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers a record 100 days late in October 2010 exacerbated — by several billion — the fiscal woes faced by the current occupant.
The other tradition points more directly to Brown serving only four years.
Chief executives enjoy taking bold action and then ensuring they’re out of office before any potentially unplesant consequences occur.
This is a strategy that accelerated under Schwarzenegger.
AB 32, the state’s landmark global warming measure, being the classic example. Approved in 2006, the main regulatory framework and the cap-and-trade system that is supposed to help businesses comply don’t kick into high gear until 2012. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels is to be achieved by 2020.
The 20 percent of electricity from renewable sources mandate was supposed to be achieved by 2010 but investor-owned utilities were given an extra three years to comply before facing fines.
Schwarzenegger’s 33 percent mandate for renewable generated electricity is also set for attainment in 2020.
Brown presented his budget plan January 10. The lynchpin is voter approval in June of an estimated $9.2 billion in “temporary” taxes enacted in 2009 that are set to expire this year.
Another part of Brown’s proposal is to shift $5.9 billion in programs from the state to cities and counties, using the extended “temporary” taxes to cover the costs.
The state would still be obligated to pay local governments the $5.9 billion even after the temporarily extended “temporary” taxes expire.
When would the taxes expire?
Five years from now.
Filed under: Budget and Economy
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