Governor Brown's new budget plan targets education

January 5, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Saying California is "in a box," Governor Jerry Brown Thursday unveiled a new budget calling for big cuts in programs for the state's poorest families. He's also asking voters to raise taxes, at least temporarily.

Governor Brown was supposed to unveil his new budget next week, but it was mistakenly posted online Thursday, so he was forced to defend his spending plan, which contains cuts, more new taxes and accounting maneuvers, all of which solve a $9.2-billion deficit.

Brown's budget proposal is a mixed bag. Using charts that show how much of the nagging deficit has been eliminated, he says the state is on the right track.

"The good news is California is recovering," said Brown. "The fiscal health of the state is improving and we now have a plan."

But more work needs to be done, and he says deeper budget cuts are necessary.

Welfare will be hit the hardest: nearly $1.5 billion less.

That includes cutting CalWORKS from four years to two years if recipients don't work, and slashing cash aid for children, saving the state $946 million.

Health coverage for the poor is slashed $842 million, and reducing childcare subsidies by 71,000 slots for poor parents will save $450 million.

"When you say we don't have enough money, you've got to cut some of that good, and that's what we're doing," said Brown. "We've got to bite the bullet."

"We are not going to jump to that. Cutting now should be the last resort," said state Senate President Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

Brown also wants to avoid even bigger cuts by raising taxes temporarily for five years $7 billion a year by asking voters to approve a half-percent hike on the sales tax for five years, and a 1-percent income tax surcharge on individual making $250,000 a year, and families making $500,00, more for millionaires.

Though Republican votes are not needed to put the tax measure on the ballot, they think voters will reject it given their record in recent years.

"They've turned down all those measures resoundingly. And so are they going to be in mood for this again when they see money for high-speed rail in there?" said state Sen. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale), who sits on the Senate Budget Committee.

Advocates for the poor say the Governor's plan should actually raise taxes more so that no more cuts are necessary.

"We need enough revenue in this budget so we don't have to cut poor kids' welfare in order to balance the state budget," said Mike Herald, legislative advocate, Western Center on Law and Poverty.

If the Governor's tax plan doesn't get approved by voters in November, another $5 billion will be cut from the budget, with schools taking the brunt. That's equivalent to shortening the school year by three weeks.


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