Face the pain

For a look at Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed 2011-2012 budget, go to www.ebudget.ca.gov.

Reactions to Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed state budget are all over the place. Democrats believe its $12.5 billion in spending cuts will shred the social safety net and be ruinous to higher education. Republicans are convinced its continuation of temporary tax increases enacted in 2009—worth around $9 billion in revenue—will be harmful to the state’s economy.

As Brown himself warned, “Fasten your seat belt,” there’s more than enough pain to go around in this budget.

But he’s on the right track. For the first time in years, the Legislature is being presented with an honest budget, one that would largely resolve the state’s structural deficit of around $25 billion until the economy recovers. It’s going to hurt, and hurt bad, but with polls showing voters favoring a combination of cuts and revenue increases to address the deficit, there are few options.

The budget also comes with a big “if.” Brown wants voters to decide, in a special “save California” June election, whether to continue the 2009 taxes. Right now the biggest problem is that Republican lawmakers are refusing even to put the tax vote on the ballot and allow the voters to decide for themselves. Continuing to insist that the state has “a spending problem, not a revenue problem,” the GOP wants the entire $25 billion to come from cuts. But that’s just the same old rhetoric of dysfunction. Apparently, they would rather dismantle state and local government than allow citizens to vote on whether to pay taxes.

We believe there are potential new revenue sources—an oil-extraction tax, for example, or extending the sales tax to some services—that would not harm the economic recovery and would ease the pain of the cuts.

It’s time for all parties to transcend their parochialism and do what’s needed. Supporting this budget in principle should be a no-brainer for anyone who loves California and wants to see it restored to solvency.