Don’t look now, but Gov. Jerry Brown is morphing into Arnold Schwarzenegger before our very eyes.
Once again, a governor has come into Sacramento promising to change the way things work in the Capitol, to make the tough decisions to make state government fiscally solvent. And once again, we are stuck with a state budget based on unrealistic revenue assumptions that avoid necessary spending cuts.
You could call this the Wimpy Budget, in homage to the Popeye character who repeatedly conned everyone by saying, “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” Brown and the Democratic legislators have cobbled together a budget that promises to pay in January the $4 billion in cuts that should be made today. Perhaps the extra $4 billion in revenue will magically appear by January, but we’re not holding our breath.
It’s likely that additional cuts will need to be made. Brown concluded his State of the State address in January by saying, “Let’s not forget that Job No. 1 — make no mistake about it — is fixing our state budget and getting our spending in line with our revenue.” Just five months later, it’s looking like he’s not up to the job.
The one piece of good news to come out of the budget debacle is that the tax increases contained within it — an Internet sales tax, a $12 vehicle-registration increase — will be more than offset by the tax hikes that will expire Friday. Californians will be able to keep nearly $10 billion of their hard-earned money in the coming year with the elimination of the 1 percent sales tax hike and elimination of the near doubling of the vehicle license fee, along with the elimination of the quarter-percent income tax hike that expired in January.
Families will be able to hold onto hundreds of dollars — in some cases nearly $1,000 — that would otherwise have been sucked into the gaping maw of state government. Instead, much of that money will be infused into the state economy, helping pull California out of the aftershock of the Great Recession. Growing the economy is the best way to provide more tax dollars for government.
And extra cash in their pocket will help Californians pay for those carbon monoxide detectors that we’re all now required to purchase or potentially face a $200 fine. The beat goes on in Sacramento.