Pulling the Trigger on California’s Future?

Director of Finance to hold meeting at noon regarding the “trigger cuts”

by Brian Leubitz

Today’s the day. If you remember back to the disaster that was last year’s budget there was a $4B mystery source of revenue that was basically a cross your fingers and hope real hard kind of thing.  The legislature then asked the Controller (John Chiang), the Legislative Analyst (Mac Taylor) and the Director of Finance (Ana Matosantos) to track how much revenue was coming in, and then if that $4B did not come in, “pull the trigger” on cuts of up to that amount that were already determined.

Well, today is that day, and Matosantos, Brown (and formerly Schwarzenegger’s) Director of Finance has to decide how much will be cut for the 2012 part of the current fiscal year.  Don’t expect much good news, as the Controller’s office already released data indicating that we weren’t going to hit that target.  Oh…and we spent more than we projected.

After accounting for November revenues, total year-to-date general fund revenues are now behind the budget’s estimates by $1 billion, but expenditures for the year are over projections by $1.95 billion.  It turns out that during a bad economic period, people need more services, but in the current climate in Sacramento, getting the legislature to approve the revenues for those services is an impossible feat even for somebody with the experience of Jerry Brown.

And so we go to the people, I suppose.  According to a new PPIC poll, Californians are not particularly interested in a cuts only budget.

A new poll shows 60 percent of California voters, weary of state spending cuts and unsettled by the prospect of more, are ready to support Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to raise taxes. … When asked about those automatic spending reductions, part of the budget package signed last summer, a plurality of likely voters – 45 percent – say they would prefer a mix of spending cuts and tax increases to address the shortfall, according to the poll.

Brown, a Democrat, is seeking to raise the statewide sales tax a half-cent and increase income taxes on people who make $250,000 or more a year. He opened a campaign committee last week, and his political adviser, Steve Glazer, has started fundraising for the effort.(SacBee)

There is a long time between now and November 2012, and a lot of painful cuts remain no matter what happens at the ballot box.  But as we continue this slow motion take-down of the California Dream, we’ll need to consider what our values really are.  Perhaps we really are a state that is only concerned about our present day self-interest, but I have higher expectations for Californians. We can, and will, break out of this viscous cycle of cuts.

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