Exclusive Interview: Jerry Brown’s State Budget Dream
Not even California Governor Jerry Brown’s most virulent critics dare any longer to call him a dreamy Moonbeam. Now 74 years old and almost halfway through a historic third term, the most likely epithet to be hurled his way is that of an ultra-pragmatic Grinch.
After a 27-year hiatus from his first stint as governor and after serving as mayor of Oakland and state attorney general, Brown has returned to the statehouse with a laser-sharp focus: cut, cut, and cut some more.
Facing a growing budget deficit of $16 billion and with state services withering, Brown adamantly argues that the only path to recovery is to substantially raise taxes. And to do so, he says, the state has to stop living beyond its means and prove to the voters that Sacramento can spend taxpayer money wisely and sparsely.
Hence, the seeming paradox of a Democratic governor, widely perceived as a liberal, embarked on a severe austerity program that might make the Greek government blush. Billions and more billions have been cut by Brown—from schools, universities, courts, welfare and assistance to the needy.
And a November referendum on his sweeping tax increase draws near and facing one of many budget deadlines at the end of this week, Brown has been pounding his own Democratic majority in the Legislature to cut even more. He’s demanding an additional near-billion-dollar whack in spending on California’s poorest.