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Marginal Sanity Returns to California


The California “comeback” still hasn’t materialized, but a small specimen of good sense was finally spotted today. The WSJ reports that after much Democratic infighting over the state’s new surplus, Governor Jerry Brown may have just persuaded his fellow Dems in the state legislature to adopt a slightly more conservative budget that rejects attempts to spend surplus dollars immediately on new programs:

Mr. Brown and legislative leaders on Tuesday announced a budget deal that calls for general-fund spending of $96.3 billion in the fiscal year starting July 1—close to a May proposal by the governor and about $2 billion lower than what legislators called for late last month.

“I am trying to be a good, prudent steward of the people’s money,” Mr. Brown said at a news conference, flanked by the leaders of the state senate and assembly. […]

Assembly Speaker John Pérez, a Democrat, called the compromise budget plan “fiscally restrained.”

We’re not exactly sure what standard of “fiscal restraint” is being used here. The Senate and assembly are slated to get at least 98 percent of the budget they wanted and concessions from Governor Brown on new spending for “mental health and dental care,” in addition to the Governor’s plan for higher spending on underperforming public schools. There’s also still $50 billion in unfunded liabilities for state retiree health care, and $4.5 billion more is needed each year to keep Calpers solvent. Oh, and there’s a $68 billion-plus bullet train to nowhere to build.

As Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo) said, “It’s the mullet budget. It’s conservative up front, but it’s liberal in the back.”

Nevertheless, Governor Brown is poised to successfully drag Democratic lawmakers ever so slightly to the right of their comfort zones. He seems to have persuaded them that the state’s shaky finances, economic uncertainty, and the inevitability of future economic downturns require a modicum of fiscal prudence.

For California, that’s no small accomplishment.

[Governor Jerry Brown image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

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  • bpuharic

    One can hardly miss the sense of puritanical concern over such wasteful spending as mental health care and education spending. Meanwhile, moral hazard tax expenditures on the 4 largest banks amount to about $100 billion a year. The elites, it seems, are worried the hoi polloi might get used to the soft life of having educated children whose teeth aren’t rotting.

    • Bruno_Behrend

      Where is the evidence that spending what amounts to $11K/kid on an army of worthless bureaucrats and underwhelming teacher recruits.

      America doesn’t need more education spending, but better education spending.

      This is accomplished by dismantling and then abandoning the failed “district” system and having the money follow the child to a vast new array of independent education options.

      After decades of gushing spending on superintendents, assistants, coordinators, and other worthless “makework” jobs, it’s time rethink the idiocy of measuring dollars alone.

      Charters, vouchers, education savings accounts and independent schools are what is needed. A mass firing of the 700+% growth in administration can be used to finance the transition.

      “Reform” has failed. It is time for dismantlement and transformation.

  • ljgude

    For me this is an indication that even the most delusional Blue state governor is sane in comparison to the politicians in Washington. Governor Moonbeam has the sense to not immediately spend a surplus, but Washington is going on like 2008 never happened. Of course that is because they can keep selling themselves bonds and pretending its all OK. And I don’t believe the Republicans in Washington have any answers other than open ended Keynesian stimulus either.

    • Ulysses4033

      That’s pretty funny. You think Gov. Brown wouldn’t behave like all the rest of them were he in Washington with the ever-churning printing press?

      • ljgude

        No I think he would behave the same or even more so – particularly given his basic character which I see as unfettered blue sky, Blue Model optimism. I think he clings to that high speed rail project because it is his teddy bear, not because it has any rational basis – social environmental, or fiscal.

  • Ulysses4033

    Prof. Mead has an inexplicable soft spot for our lefty governor, who has bet the farm on unsustainable boondoggles like high speed railroads and “green” energy, while promoting budgets that are technically balanced by ignoring necessary pension payments that amount to billions of dollars annually. Snake oil is snake oil, professor; just because Gov. Brown’s label is less gaudy than the rest of his party’s doesn’t dilute its toxicity.

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