The best Brown could do

It’s painful, but at least the state budget is honest and on time

Jerry Brown gave it all he had to achieve a bipartisan state budget, but in the end California’s dysfunctional system and the Republican legislative minority’s “almost religious” (Brown’s words) refusal to consider any new sources of revenues were more than he could overcome. As a result, he ended up signing a majority-vote budget bill about which the best that can be said is that it’s honest and delivered on time.

In the past three years, California has slashed its operating expenses by 17 percent; this bill cuts even more. Of particular concern to our area is the increased cut to the California State University, from $500 million to $650 million in 2011-12. This is going to force additional tuition hikes and enrollment reduction at Chico State, which will be a blow to the local economy.

And, if the governor’s rosy revenue projections (an increase of $4 billion) don’t pan out by mid-December, it will trigger an additional cut of $100 million to the CSU. (The University of California is facing the same reductions.)

The bill will have other local impacts. For one thing, it slices $71 million from the Department of Justice’s Division of Law Enforcement, a group that leads 50 task forces across the state targeting criminal gangs and drug-trafficking organizations. And it takes $1.7 billion from local redevelopment agencies, which inevitably will force Chico’s to put important capital projects on hold.

More than anything, this budget and the process that created it illustrate the need for reforms, beginning with greater transparency and an end to the two-thirds vote rule to raise taxes.

California, one of the richest, most productive societies on Earth, deserves better.