Brown offers unpopular solution for budget

December 29, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Next Monday, Jerry Brown will be sworn in as California's new governor. But he will inherit the same old budget problems, and the solutions he is likely to offer may not be very popular.

How will California's famously frugal new governor handle the states' ongoing budget mess? Brown has put everyone on notice he'll be no budget savior and he intends to extend tax hikes on car, sales and income taxes. But also promises more deep cuts to offset a projected $25 billion deficit, nearly one-third of California's general fund.

St. Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, will serve on the Senate finance committee.

"The governor, I suspect, since he will be delivering a budget on Jan. 10, constitutionally mandated, will lay out to Californians, 'this is what an 'all cuts' budget looks like,' and I think people will be stunned," he said.

Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia believes Brown at least will give local governments a heads up about what's coming down from Sacramento.

"I'm a realist. I don't expect the governor or the Legislature to restore funding that's been cut. There's no way, given our state budget and declining revenues, that they can do that," he said.

As it is, Contra Costa County may have to close seven fire stations and lay off 50 firefighters next year. The fire district is funded by local property taxes, but Firefighters Association President Vince Wells hopes a new governor will send a new message -- if nothing else.

"We're hoping that the governor establishes what the priorities are at the state level and that it trickles down to the government level," he said.

Perennial targets of the Schwarzenegger administration, adult day health care programs, have somehow managed to survive. But will Brown take another swing at them?

"I would hope somebody in his organization has an IQ above three and can run the numbers. We save the state and immense amount of money by keeping people out of nursing homes," Peter Behr from Guardian Adult Day Health said.

One cut Brown has promised he will make is his own office budget, by 25 percent.


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