GOV. JERRY Brown‘s succinct State of the State address zeroed in on the one thing that is most important to him: placing a ballot measure before the voters to extend income, sales and car tax increases for five years.
His insistence that the voters make the critical decision on whether to retain the tax increases is vital to the success of his budget proposal and is the right course to take.
California‘s state finances are in crisis and have been for several years. Brown was correct in saying the state no longer can delay action on resolving the budget deficit, which is $25 billion over the next 18 months, with continuing huge deficits into the foreseeable future.
The governor has taken the first major step toward balancing the budget with his call for $12 billion in reduced spending. Now he is demanding that Republican legislators not stand in the way of allowing the voters to take the next step and approve a continuation of the higher taxes they have been paying.
Brown accurately warned of the draconian spending cuts that would have to be made if the tax increases were not extended, affecting K-12 education and social services.
However, the governor so far has not adequately addressed two key elements that should be part of the budget solution: pension and prison reform.
The state will spend $5.87 billion next year on retirement pension and health care programs. That’s about 41/2 times what it spent in 1998-99.