Brown’s Budget in 11th Hour Push

Mark Laluan

All signs point to Governor Jerry Brown failing to meet his self-imposed deadline of March 10 to reach a deal on California’s budget.

Brown’s two-pronged approach of closing the state’s outstanding debts requires cuts to this year’s budget, as well as the extension of existing and approval of new taxes by the California electorate in a special election scheduled for June 7.

The Governor vowed to solve the state’s outstanding financial problems within 60 days. However, little headway has been achieved on the budget proposals he outlined in January.

Republicans still remain committed to their no-tax pledge and Democrats continue to insist on limiting the broad cuts to the social welfare net demanded by Brown. The governor has remained consistent in his argument that the only way to close the state’s financial problems is a combination of limiting government spending and cutting back state-funded programs.

This week, Brown outlined a series of symbolic cuts to the state’s purchase of “promotional trinkets” such as buttons, toys and other “frivolities” through executive order. While this would only save $2 million per year when compared to the State’s projected $26.6 billion budget deficit, it is a publicity project in keeping with Brown’s desire to radiate a sense of frugality and seriousness.

While symbolic gestures are a stock-in-trade tool of political theater, Brown’s efforts to cut state expenditures on cell phones, cars and now kitsch items gives off a more earnest aura to the people allowing Brown to for all intents and purposes repackage Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget solutions proposed in 2009 for use in 2011.

Recent college graduates entering the job market in California are hopeful that Brown can deliver on his election promises. Recent CSU East Bay graduate Geoffrey Kahler is still hopeful for the effectiveness of Brown’s budget proposal, even if he may not agree with all of Brown’s cuts.

“While I’m not exactly happy with the school cuts, I’m glad he’s making across the board cuts from everywhere, and not adding money to the budget in other areas,” said Kahler.
Brown’s budget proposal is aided by his positive public image. However, this does little to help him with Republicans, who have begun questioning the constitutionality of having the electorate directly extend taxes past their expiration date and approve new taxes by amending the state constitution.

Brown also faces challenges from Democrats squarely against reducing the aspects of the social safety net Brown has demanded be cut. Brown has hinted that pension reform may be on the table, but his allies in the Democratic-controlled legislature have taken every opportunity to assure their constituents that they would not back a pension reform measure at this time.

Given the ruckus thrown up by both parties in opposing to Brown’s plans, it is unlikely as of this writing that Brown will achieve the full adoption of his budget proposals by his self-imposed deadline of March 10.