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California 'Comeback'
Another Golden State Mullet Budget

California Democrats have eked out a draw in their ongoing fight with Governor Jerry Brown (D) over what to do with the state’s projected $4.7 billion surplus. Governor Brown will propose a budget using the state’s extra revenue to both pay off long-term debt and let loose the cash flow for the state’s failing public school system. The WSJ reports:

According to the document, Mr. Brown will propose spending a total of $154.9 billion, with the biggest chunk of that—$45.7 billion, or roughly 30%—going to public schools. The budget will also propose spending $11 billion to pay off California’s $24.9 billion debt, with the intent of eliminating it by the 2017-18 budget cycle.

The budget proposed strengthening a state rainy-day fund by constitutional amendment.

“Wisdom and prudence should be the order of the day,” Mr. Brown wrote.

The Democratic lawmakers who have been fighting to spend the state’s tax windfall on social services old and new seem to have gotten most of what they want from Governor Brown, who has been trying to press for some semblance of “fiscal restraint.” This budget proposal looks better than what many in the Governor’s party might concoct without him, but it still looks like the sign of a California in decline than one back on track. The state with one of the worst performing public schools systems in the country is choosing to load a new chunk of cash onto the failed model without doing much to improve the system’s dismal record of student achievement. This is more or less like cutting new and fatter checks to the state’s failed prison system without addressing the legal and institutional problems that contribute to such an unsustainably large inmate population.

It’s also worth remembering that the projected surplus is worth only about one-tenth the cost of California’s current unfunded pension liability, or roughly equal to the cost of keeping Calpers solvent for one year. Last summer’s assessment from Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo) still looks right: “It’s the mullet budget. It’s conservative up front, but it’s liberal in the back.”

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  • GodisanAmerican

    Mr. Mead’s essay on hurricane Sandy made me a fan of his. But he seem to take such a pleasure out of every little wrinkle in blue states.
    California’s became ungovernable largely because of CA GOP. Now they are soundly defeated, CA is governable again. CA spending 45 billion on public school system…horror, the horror.
    OK pensions of public employees (esp. police and firefighter, a GOP constituency) are out of whack. Reform is badly needed.
    Blue states (CA, NY,MA,…) are far better places to live and raise children than red states (AL, MS, AR,….maybe TX excepted).
    Or look at high/low taxed countries. Where would you rather live? High taxed ‘socialized’ countries like Denmark, Sweden, or even dreaded France, Germany or low taxed ‘capitalistic’ countries
    Taiwan, HongKong, Pakistan or libertarian paradise Serra Leone, Sudan..

    • bigfire

      Seriously? CA GOP was the ONLY thing stopping the government workers union from totally raping the state of its tax paying citizen. Now that they’re a non-issue, it’s up to the former Governor Moonbeam to at least inject a sense of reality into the legislative process.

      I live here, do you know what just went into law this year in California? Here’s one example:

      The fully paid for Democratic State legislators haven’t seen a tax increase they don’t like. The sham Prop 30 was sold as a temporary stop-gap measure on the evil Rich. Now they’re talking about extending it to forever and increase it. The state is so dependant on the high incomer’s tax that the next stock market crash will bring about even more revenue headache. And as Mr. Meade have mentioned in this article, we haven’t even began to address the unfunded pension liability.

  • Skoptic

    Got out of California in 2011. The government was constantly picking my pocket and the whole state is turning into a freak show. The only thing I miss is the weather.

    • GodisanAmerican

      Where are you now? Arkansas? Alabama?

      • Skoptic

        Colorado. Denver, to be precise. Where are you? Los Angeles? D.C.? Probably San Francisco, given the holier than thou tone.

  • TheCynical1

    As a lifelong Californian, I’ll suggest, sadly, that Governor Brown actually looks somewhat sensible . . . when compared to his fellow Dem state politicians.

    I’ll never forget a campaign radio commercial of his, when he said (paraphrasing): “I believe in three things: first, in a down economy when people are tightening their belts, government must tighten its belt too; second, power needs to shift from the state to localities, as much as possible; and third, taxes should not be increased, without voter approval.” My conservative friends summarily dismissed this talk as insincere. But I can’t think of any other prominent Dem state politicians who could force themselves to even utter such words, sincere or not.

    In contrast . . . when his hapless GOP opponent, Meg Whitman, was asked in a radio interview to talk about how she would improve public education, she earnestly launched into a rambling, long-winded, policy-wonk answer, chock-full of any number of centrally-planned micro-management proposals (paraphrasing): “Blah blah blah . . .” Great campaign, Meg.

    Now, the Dems are in control: they hold the Governor’s office, and solid majorities in both houses of the State Legislature. They own the state — just as the national Dems own Obamacare by having rammed it through on a party-line vote — and all credit and blame will belong to them in this great laboratory experiment. Whenever they try to blame the GOP, just ask them why they aren’t turning things around in their one-party utopia.

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