Gov. Jerry Brown made the best of a bad situation in cobbling together a budget that was, as of press time, expected to clear the Legislature on Tuesday night.
If Republicans don’t like it, well, they have only themselves to blame. By stubbornly resisting the idea of giving taxpayers the chance to vote on extensions of tax increases, they severely limited options for balancing the budget.
Now, they ridicule Brown for relying on overly rosy revenue predictions. Would they prefer to make painful cuts now and be done with it? At least under Brown’s plan, there’s a possibility that we could avoid some further reductions.
And if projections don’t hold up?
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There are contingency plans, including a further $1.5 billion cut to schools that could force some districts to trim up to seven days from the school year.
For San Luis Obispo County school districts, which have already cut close to $40 million over the past three years, that’s particularly grim news.
There also is bad news in the budget for local cities; the governor’s proposed dismantlement of redevelopment agencies remained part of the plan.
The budget does include some revenue producers, including an annual $150 surcharge for homeowners in high-risk fire areas to help pay for state firefighting efforts. That’s stiff, but it’s also fair. Homes in remote, heavily vegetated areas are at far greater risk than houses in more urban settings, and those residents should be willing to assume increased liability for living in fire-prone areas.
A provision requiring online retailers, such as Amazon.com, to collect state sales tax also makes sense. That’s expected to raise at least $200 million per year for California and will level the field for local, brick-and-mortar stores dutifully collecting sales tax.
But there was bad news in the budget as well, aside from additional cuts. We were especially disappointed that the Legislature missed an opportunity to enact some meaningful pension reform. Republicans pin the blame for that on Democrats who weren’t willing to risk losing the support of powerful unions.
But had Republicans made that their one key goal — and been willing to compromise on tax extensions in exchange — then perhaps there could have been some progress.
Instead, we’re left, once again, with nothing in the way of meaningful, lasting reform — and that’s simply not good enough.