Legislature and Governor Hold Budgetary Love-In

The Legislative Analyst routinely takes governors to task for any number of deficiencies  — unrealistic forecasts, faux-savings and gimmickry, among them — contained  in the January spending plans of the executive branch. Not this year:

“Overall, the governor’s proposal would place California on an even stronger fiscal footing, continuing California’s budgetary progress,” the analyst says in its 42-page Overview of the Governor’s Budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Continues the analyst:

“The governor’s proposal for a new rainy-day fund requirement emphasizes the importance of regular state contributions to a larger budget reserve. In general, setting aside money for a rainy day is exactly what the state should be doing when revenues are soaring, as they are now.”

In response, Michael Cohen, director of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Department of Finance graciously says:

“We’re pleased that the analyst agrees with the governor’s principal priorities of continuing to pay down debt and save for a rainy day.”

No less laudatory is Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, a Berkeley Democrat and chair of the lower house’s budget committee. Says Skinner:

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner

“For the last few years we’ve been digging California out of a hole, while our schools, infrastructure and social services suffered. With what the governor proposed …  along with priorities articulated in the Assembly’s Budget Blueprint, we could wind up with the best budget California’s had in years. One that’s not only good for this upcoming year but also the future.”

Adds Assembly Speaker John Pérez, a Los Angeles Democrat and candidate for state controller:

“I’m pleased to see so many areas of agreement between the Governor and the Assembly, particularly how strongly he has embraced the rainy day fund that is the cornerstone of the Assembly’s proposal. With a strong rainy day fund in place we can avoid mistakes of the past and ensure that education and other vital services in California are protected from the volatility of boom and bust cycles.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, always a tough grader, says Brown’s budget plan is “a strong starting point for the coming months’ conversations — but work remains to be done.”

Torlakson wants every 4-year-old to be able to enroll in “universal transitional kindergarten,” which presumably would reduce the amount of money the Democratic governor wants to spend paying off debt and stuffing into a rainy day fund. Torlakson says he’ll keep working with Brown and the Legislature over the next six months to make sure “ education remains the top priority in the state budget.”

Senate GOP Leader Bob Huff

Senate GOP Leader Bob Huff

Republicans were more tepid in their assessment of Brown’s spending plan although their views are less important now that a budget requires only a  majority vote for passage. Democrats hold comfortable majorities in both the Senate and the Assembly.

“The big question is, can the governor hold strong against the spending demands made by his fellow Democrats,” said Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar.

“Judging by the way they want to spend money, you’d think California was booming. Sadly, that’s not the case. Our unemployment rate is still among the highest in the country and that’s not acceptable.  Ramping up state spending before making sure we’re on solid fiscal ground is a recipe for disaster.  What’s the good of building up programs only to tear them down in a couple of years? We’ve seen this movie before, and it doesn’t have a happy ending.”

(Editor’s Note: Perhaps he hasn’t read the Assembly Democratic Blueprint for a Responsible Budget, which says in big type on the front of its graphically pleasing PowerPoint that its aim is “ensuring stability” and “expanding opportunity.”)



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