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Most Trigger Cuts Coming, But K-12 School Days Spared

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The governor says these mid-year "trigger" cuts are painful - but California is stuck.

Brown: "There's a very simple - I want to invoke a Latin phrase here: Nemo dat non habet.  It means, no man gives what he does not have.  The state cannot give what it does not have."

Even though revenues are now expected to fall $2 billion short, the cuts only total $1 billion.  The rest of the shortfall will carry over into next year.  Brown warns the cuts in his January budget proposal will look even worse - and that doesn't include the consequences of next year's election.

Brown: "We will have more trigger cuts premised on whether or not people vote for taxes."

Brown is supporting a sales and income tax increase on the November 2012 ballot.

One big cut will not be triggered: The state expects just enough money to come in to avoid eliminating seven days from the K-12 school year.

Education Cuts Bad, But Could Have Been Worse

The trigger cuts will have a big impact on education - but not as big as many people had feared.  California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott says the cost of taking classes will go up this summer - for the third time in two years.

Scott: "It will be $46 a unit.  This year, it's $36 a unit.  The previous year, it was $26 a unit.  So you can see that we're raising the tuition price rather dramatically."

K-12 districts will lose their funding for school buses.  But San Francisco Unified Board Member Jill Wynns says her district will have to find savings elsewhere because it won't be able to make that cut.

Wynns: "It's mostly for special-ed and we're mandated to do it.  And that's true for many districts.  Other districts can't decide not to do the transportation because they wouldn't have any kids if they didn't bring them to school.  They can't get there any other way!"

If the revenues had been even worse, the state would have eliminated funding for up to seven school days this year.  That's the one trigger cut that now looks likely to be avoided.

Lawmaker Reaction

It doesn't appear there's much will among California lawmakers to try to reverse or overturn the trigger cuts.

Republican Assemblyman Jim Nielsen calls the mid-year cuts "one of the only positive things in the budget."  But he says the governor's plan for another round of trigger cuts next year in case a tax measure fails at the polls is out of line.

Nielsen: "I think the strategy of the Democrats in part, is, well, we'll let everyone face these cuts and then they'll be disposed to vote for the taxes.  And I have put it bluntly: I think they are tempting and taunting the voters - in your face!"

Democrats say they hate the cuts but have no other choice, given the state's fiscal condition.  They're blaming Republicans and say the cuts could have been avoided if GOP lawmakers had agreed to place tax extensions on a special election ballot this year.

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