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Former Legislative Analyst Says Brown More Circumspect With Revised Budget Proposal

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Steve Boilard of Sacramento State University's Center for California Studies spoke with Capital Public Radio Senior News Editor, Alan Ray.

AR: With the state's improved economy, would you call this a sort of "victory lap" speech for Governor Brown?

SB: No, certainly not.  The Governor's victory lap speech I think was more in January where he talked about the big change from a decade of cuts to this balanced budget.  Today it was more prudent about the need to kind of put the brakes on the desire for increased spending.

AR: How much in the mix was politics and how much was real budget statement here.  I'm talking particularly about the issue of weighted formulas for schools.

SB: Well that's an interesting one because the Governor in January he was very strong on a lot of these proposals and today he seemed a little more circumspect in acknowledging that the legislature may have its own agenda.  I got the sense that he was starting to kind of acknowledge that he might not be getting that and isn't going to go to the mat for it.

AR: How much of the sense do you have that the Governor is really acutely aware that a lot of the issues here, a lot of the factors are out of the state's control. Sequestration for instance, and he talked about the payroll tax increase in particular.

SB: Yes, I think that's very much in the forefront of the Governor's remarks that there are forces beyond the state that we really have no control over…  Obamacare another part of this and how the state responds to that.  But more than that I think that he's also acknowledging just the inherent revenue volatility that our state budget has.  And in fact Prop. 30 made it even more volatile by balancing even a larger share of the state budget on the top 1 percent of income earners.

AR: Now he didn't talk very long, by my timer only about 3 ½ minutes.  Is that a surprise?

SB: This governor certainly just likes to cut to the chase.  I know that Gray Davis would keep the microphone much longer but I think that the Governor is really just trying to make the political pitch and wants to leave the details to his director of finance.

AR: In your previous life you watched the Legislature. How is this speech going to play there?

SB: Not real well among the Democrats, although the leadership I think is talking the talk in the assembly and the senate… the need for prudence and discipline etc.  But member by member everybody has something they've kind of promised their constituents they want to be able to deliver.  So being told no, now that we finally got a tax increase you can't really increase spending…. I don't think that's going to go over real well.

AR: How much a hazard for the Governor would be that super majority of two-thirds in both houses?

SB: Well, in theory they could override his veto, which, if that were ever to happen that would really knock his power down.  So I think the Governor's cognizant of that.  It's interesting that at the very moment under Prop. 25 in 2010 that the people gave to the Democrats the ability to pass the budget on a simple majority, at that moment the Democrats ended up getting a two-thirds majority in both houses.  But like I say that comes with the ability to override a governor's veto as well.

AR:  Another quote from the Governor: "We're sailing into some uncertain times." So this was certainly a sobering look at what's going on…

SB: I guess I would say we've been in uncertain times for the past decade or two.  So, we remain in uncertain times and for that reason let's not make commitments that we don't know we can keep.

AR: Can you take a look at what the next step would be in the legislature and tell us whether or not the Governor is looking for some maybe early small wins and some longer term losses.

SB: Well the way I think the Legislature is positioned at this point is… again I don't think they've made tremendously large promises.  I think much of the fight is going to be around how money is allocated rather than how much money is allocated.  But that's still going to occupy a lot of air time over school funding, for example, and funding for counties.  The whole realignment part remains a pretty large fight.  I guess the other piece is the Governor continues to talk about the wall of debt.  And the Governor really wants to start making downpayments on this wall of debt and that's something that the Legislature has been pretty hesitant to put money towards, where that money instead could go towards some goodies to bring home to the district.

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