by Wyatt Buchanan @ sfgate.com
Sacramento - Gov. Jerry Brown proposed significant cuts to state courts and state worker pay - including reducing state employees' workweek to four days - to help close a $15.7 billion gap between revenue and expenses for California's fiscal year that begins July 1.
In announcing his revised budget proposal, which he called both "difficult" and "real, increased austerity," the governor also pressed his case for voters to approve a tax initiative that he is pushing in the November election.
The governor's plan already counts the revenue the tax initiative would bring in - and if voters reject the taxes, then even deeper cuts would be required, Brown said. Those would include midyear cuts to public schools, community colleges and the University of California and California State University systems.
Brown spoke at the Capitol and immediately flew to Los Angeles, where he also made his case for his $91 billion general-fund spending plan. The general fund pays for most state services.
"I said at the beginning when I ran for this job that it's taken a long time, more than a decade, to get into this mess. We're not going to get out of it in a year, or even two years. But we're getting there. We're making progress," Brown said.
Overall, the budget plan relies on $8.3 billion in spending reductions and other cuts, nearly $6 billion from the taxes that would be collected if the November ballot measure passes, and $2.5 billion in "other" solutions including putting off the repayment of some loans.
Deficit despite taxes
But even while counting on the increase in taxes, which is far from certain to pass, the governor projects the state will have a $7.7 billion deficit in two years. Still, Brown said the state's chronic deficits will remain a top issue for him.
"I think you can be confident that before I leave here we will be in solid fiscal balance and we can look forward to a very stable future," he said.
The bulk of the cuts, nearly $2.5 billion, come from health services and welfare, which Democrats in the Legislature have opposed. The federal government and courts also have already blocked similar reductions in services, but it appears the governor is going to try again to get approval on those, including In-Home Supportive Services and co-payments for Medi-Cal.
The proposal seeks to make reductions in what the state pays to hospitals and nursing homes for treating the poor, along with adding limits on who qualifies for welfare. The $879 million proposed cut to CalWORKS, the state's welfare to work program, is actually smaller than what the governor first proposed in January, but Democrats have said the reduction would lead to homelessness and that they oppose it.
"There is of course a balance between making necessary cuts, which we will do, and maintaining and preserving essential services for people, especially people most in need," said state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.
June 15 deadline
Brown said he expects the budget negotiations, which must conclude by the June 15 deadline, will be "difficult," and Steinberg agreed.
The largest and newest pieces of the revised plan include taking $1.4 billion that was left from the dismantling of the state's redevelopment agencies and using it for the general fund. Steinberg and others had initially wanted that money to help create affordable housing... Continue reading...