Deep-cuts budget already in the works

Gov. Jerry Brown is putting together a new draft budget that includes billions of dollars in additional cuts and, absent dramatic action in the Legislature, it will be similar to whatever budget he signs into law.

The reworked spending plan will be released May 14, he said, as part of the May Revision, when the governor’s office traditionally factors in the latest revenues – the income tax filing deadline is April 15 – and rewrites the budget to reflect them.

“That budget will be fully balanced,” Brown told reporters after a speech to the California Medical Association. Absent new revenue, the only way to the balance the budget is with cuts, he has said.

“”We’re going back to that traditional process,” Brown said, “and we’ll be ready by May 14,” he noted. Brown has made little secret of his intention to sign an all-cuts budget absent new revenue. The May Revision is a formal step in that process.

The “traditional process” is that a governor proposes a budget in January, the Legislature rewrites it, the May Revision tweaks the numbers and the Legislature approves it in June. The governor signs it into law by July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

That rarely happens. In recent years, the problem has been exacerbated by a hyper-partisan divide in the Legislature.
 Brown, a Democrat, has sought to place a special election on the ballot in June that would include a mix of cuts and taxes to resolve a multibillion-dollar shortfall, but Republicans have balked and denied him the two-thirds vote majority he needs. He already has signed legislation authorizing some $11.2 billion in cuts, but that’s less than half the problem.

Brown now is taking his proposals directly to the public on a tour of the state to deliver his message.

He said he is committed to having his budget proposal appear on the ballot, but he left the door open on just how he would do that. Fleeting ballot deadlines are making his task harder.

And even if he persuades millions of Californians to support his plan to have a budget election, when would they vote?

If he cannot cajole lawmakers – or their constituents — to provide a two-thirds majority, he suggested the possibility of a ballot initiative to raise money, although he said such initiatives need seven or eight months of lead time and are “rigid.”

The soonest for a special election was June – but that window apparenlty has closed.

That means the soonest now might be late summer or early fall but that would be a daunting task, especially in the case of an initiative, which requires signature gathering and, presumably, a multi-million dollar campaign to sell it to voters.

A recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that people were evenly divided about whether the election should be held and there was opposition to approving tax extensions.

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