By Peter Schrag
Unless everything we know about Jerry Brown is wrong, and everything that he said even before his election was misleading, what we’re going to get today (1/10) is a bare bones budget – austerity in its most Draconian form – coupled with a challenge that if the legislature and the voters want anything more, they’ll have to provide the funds to pay for it.
If he were to be totally clear he’d say that California can’t dig its way out of its fiscal crisis without both major cuts and major increases in revenues.
Brown’s cuts will include significant reductions in the budgets for the University of California and the California State University, the elimination, as already announced, of the state’s redevelopment agencies, and a sharp reduction in the prison budget. It’s also likely that Brown will call for cuts in community college funding.
Indications are that Brown will propose no further cuts in the K-12 budget in this round, but issue a warning that if the legislature and voters don’t approve additional revenues in May or June – among them extensions of the income and sales tax and the vehicle license fees due to expire this year – then the schools will feel the ax as well.
California’s school funding has already been severely cut in the last few years and, as a percentage of personal income, now ranks among the lowest spending states in the nation. Additional cuts would almost certainly mean a still shorter school year, still larger classes and the elimination of whatever few school counselors, librarians, reading specialists and arts programs still remain in the schools.
…But even that may not be enough. Nothing may be enough until the doors actually begin to close, bridges start falling down and the fire brigade doesn’t come at all. It could happen as early this summer when, according to the same fiscal expert, Wall Street stops lending to California and the state is completely broke.
Excerpts from the longer piece. Read the entire piece at California Progress Report.
Peter Schrag, whose exclusive weekly column appears every Monday in the California Progress Report, is the former editorial page editor and columnist of the Sacramento Bee. He is the author of Paradise Lost: California’s Experience, America’s Future and California: America’s High Stakes Experiment. His new book, Not Fit for Our Society: Nativism, Eugenics, Immigration is now on sale.
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