Announcements from newly installed governor make good on budget cutting promises.
By Jason KUROSU
Governor Jerry Brown unveiled his budget plan Monday, a budget rife with cuts and plans to increase taxes in order to combat a ballooning deficit. The billions in cuts might have come as a shock to some if not for Brown’s warnings in various press releases and speeches before and after his election.
In his inaugural speech, a week prior to the Monday proposal, Brown said, “The year ahead will demand courage and sacrifice … The budget I present next week will be painful, but it will be an honest budget.”
Governor Brown proposes $12.5 billion in cuts to various services and state programs. Among the myriad cuts, $500 million would be cut from both the University of California and California State University systems, $1.7 billion would be cut from Medi-Cal and $1.5 billion would be cut from CalWorks, which provides assistance to the poor, just to name a few.
Aside from cuts, Brown has also pushed for a realignment of government services, shifting the responsibilities of certain state services to the counties. Brown also spoke of this desire to move services closer to the local level in his speeches. Programs recommended for realignment include Fire and Emergency Response Activities, Mental Health Services and Foster Care among others. In his budget summary, Governor Brown indicates that this realignment will allow “decisions to be made by those who have the direct knowledge and interest to ensure that local needs are met in the most sensible way” and also will prevent “duplication of services,” or prevent these programs from being operated at both the state and county level simultaneously.
In addition, Brown is calling for voters to renew increases on income, sales and vehicle taxes in a June election. The money from the taxes would help pay for some of the services cut or shifted to the counties and it has been said that if the taxes are not increased, the cuts will only deepen.
With the deep cuts and calls for increased taxes being admittedly “painful,” some immediate backlash was to be expected.
Los Angeles County Mayor Michael D. Antonovich criticized Brown’s realignment plans, saying, “True realignment is using property taxes for property-related services. Shifting state and federal mandates to local government and calling it ‘realignment’ is a Trojan horse. All non-property related services should be funded by the state – any other scheme is a recipe for fiscal chaos.”
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson was displeased with the cuts, although most were directed towards universities with K-12 schools largely spared.
“The Governor made good on his word to make tough decisions. Unfortunately, this budget extends the financial emergency facing California’s schools,” said Torlakson.
“The Governor is correct in pointing out that our schools already have been hurt far too much by the $18 billion in cuts made over the last three years. We once led the nation in investing in our children and their future. Now we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel – with the largest classes, the shortest school year, and the fewest counselors of almost any state in the nation.”
Senator Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar who also represents a portion of foothill voters) believes the budget is a start, but disagrees with Brown’s hopes that voters will support the tax hikes.
“This budget, while a step in the right direction, still has a long way to go. There’s a $10 billion hole in this plan because Senate Republicans don’t believe voters will pass a five year extension of the temporary tax hikes as envisioned by the Governor,” said Huff. “California voters have shown no appetite for new taxes.”
In a little over a week since his inauguration, Brown has stirred up state officials and residents with his budget. Time, and the state of the economy, will tell whether Brown’s budget is painfully honest, or just “painful.”