The theme of Governor Jerry Brown's budget proposal can be summed up like this:
"It's better to take our medicine now and get the state on a balanced footing."
But there's no spoonful of sugar accompanying Brown's medicine. He's calling for twelve-and-a-half billion dollars in cuts to welfare, social services and higher education. He wants thousands of state workers to take pay cuts of eight-to-ten percent. And he's asking voters to extend temporary sales, car and income tax hikes for five years.
"We are cutting, we're extending the taxes and we're restructuring and I believe that is the way to go. It's going to be objected to, but there are even more people who will say thank God, we're finally facing the music."
Brown wants lawmakers to put together a plan by March. He says if voters don't approve a tax extension the cuts will double.
"We've made some drastic cuts and to do more is going to impair the quality of our public service."
Brown's plan also includes a major shift in responsibility for social service programs from the state to local governments. He says if voters approve the tax extensions, much of the money will be funneled to local agencies to pay for the change. Voters rejected a similar tax extension in 2009. So why does Brown think the outcome would be different this time?
"Tthere is a significant number of people who have an open mind and it'll be up to the legislature and myself business community, and citizen groups and parent-teacher associations to make the case."
Brown says he expects to campaign for the tax measure, but first he'll have to convince two-thirds of the legislature to put it on the ballot….and that's far from certain.
Don't count on Republican lawmakers to help meet the two-thirds requirement. Senate and Assembly Republicans say no member of their caucus is willing to vote for Brown's current proposal. Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton says the proposed cuts aren't deep enough.
"Most of the cuts and reductions you hear about are not really that. What they are is taking away scheduled increases or there's been new programs that have come in that they've had to delay. What I take a look at is what's the real dollars you're spending."
But lawmakers across the aisle say there's nothing left to cut.
"I hate these cuts."
That's Democratic Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg.
"But that is a different question from whether or not it is the responsible thing and in the best interests of California and in the best interests of some of these programs, to make the hard decisions that have to be made."
Virtually the only area of the state budget not facing cuts in Brown's plan is K through 12 education. Higher education, which fared better last year, would be cut by more than one billion dollars. Mike Uhlenkam p is with the California State University system. He says they know a half a million dollar cut to CSU schools is the "best case scenario."
"The governor has made everyone aware that there is pain to be suffered throughout the state and that everyone needs to take their fair share of that."
Lawmakers are expected to hold the first hearing on Brown's proposal later this week.