LOS ANGELES—With the new budget signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on time—a rare event in recent California history—the state’s solvency in the coming year is based on a wish for continued higher tax and fee revenues.
The budget approval was accomplished without a single Republican vote in the California Senate. Proposition 25, passed last November, allows for a 50 percent majority to approve the budget, down from two-thirds. However, tax increases still require a two-thirds majority vote.
The budget passed with a heavy dose of state spending cuts and the supposition that government revenues will continue to improve.
It appears that few are exempted from the cuts. These include higher education, child care, police services, and transportation—virtually every department in government.
Brown objected to numerous items in Senate Bill 87. Included in his list of numerical adjustments were two line-item vetoes totaling $2,530,000, and two other reductions were funded by drawing from other internal program resources. The total net budget reduction to Senate 87 was $270,787,000.
The combined higher education system must now adjust to a $1.5 billion budget cut, which will force higher tuition and significant cuts in programs and staffing. Higher education has been shown to provide a vibrant and productive workforce that has been the backbone of the state’s high-tech industries for several decades.
Tourism will also be broadly affected by cuts through the systematic closure of 270 state parks, beaches, and monuments along with lay off of staff and supportive services during the coming year.
Contingencies are already in place if the hoped-for revenue increases from a “growing economy” do not materialize. The budget will be reviewed again mid-year and decisions will be made at that time. If budgeted revenues are not met, contingencies, including reducing the school year by up to seven days, will be implemented.
Police Services Cut $71 Million
California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris issued a statement and demand regarding the loss of state enforcement capabilities. Police services affected range from patrolmen to sheriffs to specialized drug and gang investigation and enforcement capabilities around the state.
In an announcement published on the attorney general’s website, Harris said, “The cuts will likely eliminate 55 state-led task forces that coordinate the response to our growing gang problem. The Bureau of Investigation and Intelligence and Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement will also likely be eliminated, as will the investigative capacities of the newly formed Mortgage Fraud Strike Force. All told, several hundred agents, investigators, and other law enforcement positions will be lost.”
Harris also said, “Public safety is a basic right of all people and a core function of our government. For that reason, I call on Governor Brown and the Legislature to immediately restore adequate funding to California law enforcement.”
The Republican minority would not approve new nor renew existing fees and taxes. This was a major issue in the budget process. The Republicans’ contention was that the voters should make that decision in a future ballot initiative.
One of the planks of Brown during his election campaign was that he would not raise taxes without the approval of the voters.Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway said on June 15, “By standing united together as the last line of defense for California taxpayers, Republicans were able to stop Governor Brown’s massive $58 billion tax increase from becoming reality. … This means that hardworking Californians will see much-needed tax relief on July 1st.”
After Gov. Brown signed the budget on June 30, Conway said at a news conference in Sacramento, “Despite their efforts, we kept politicians out of the taxpayer’s wallet.”