More Gimmicks, Less Honesty: California continues to play budget games.
Jerry Brown returned to the governor’s office last year promising to wipe away the mess of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration and focus on fundamental budget reforms. Above all, Brown vowed only to sign “honest budgets.” But 16 months later, it’s obvious that not even Brown can escape the budget gimmickry or overcome the urge to “kick the can down the road” that has plagued previous administrations. Evidence of the governor’s new spin on the same old story is abundant in the May budget revision he released Monday.
As the Sacramento Bee reports, “The state budget deficit had grown by a remarkable 70 percent since January, but fiscal experts said the economy had little to do with it.” If not the economy, then what could possibly explain the shortfall? The answer: Brown and his administration embraced overly optimistic budget projections—what the Legislative Analyst’s Office described as “an aggressive forecast.” In January, Brown had claimed a budget deficit of $9 billion; today, it stands at $16 billion.
Over the past few weeks, the governor and the legislature cobbled together a budget that should get them through the constitutionally mandated June 15 budget deadline but likely won’t fix California’s enduring problem of spending more than the state takes in. The state government spends foolishly in good economic times as well as bad. Even as other states, like Texas, have seen robust economic growth in the past two years, California lags. Democrats, the majority party in Sacramento, would rather blame “the economy” than embrace policies that spur growth and make draconian budget cuts less necessary.