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Jerry Brown's budget for California is 'honest' and 'very painful'

Gov. Jerry Brown proposes a balanced California budget that has something 'for everyone to hate.' A plan to shift some programs to local governments will be a tough sell.

By Dan WoodStaff writer / January 10, 2011

Gov. Jerry Brown answers a question on his approach to dealing with an estimated $25.4 billion state budget deficit during news conference where he released his $84.6 billion general fund state spending plan at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., on Jan. 10.

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

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Los Angeles

Gov. Jerry Brown released a balanced state budget Monday that cuts $12.5 billion in spending, raises billions in taxes, includes an 8 to 10 percent cut in pay for most state employees, and proposes a restructuring of government that purports to “return the power to localities.”

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During his gubernatorial campaign Mr. Brown promised straight talk and no smoke and mirrors, reiterating those promises several times in recent weeks.

He also spoke of the need for the state to make excruciating choices. By most accounts, the budget he proposed Monday has delivered just that.

“It is an adult budget. … There are no games, no smoke and mirrors, which is what he promised, and it is very painful,” says Barbara O’Connor, director of the Institute for Study of Politics and Media at California State University, Sacramento.

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There is no shifting of funds with the prospect of future payback when the economy recovers, she says, and no borrowing, methods which were used in recent budgets by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration to at least get the state to appear solvent on paper.

'Tough budget for tough times'

Governor Brown called the spending plan “a tough budget for tough times” that will close the state’s structural deficit and provide a “strong and stable foundation” to meet future needs.

“Without decisive action, the state’s severe budget problems will persist, threatening economic recovery, job growth, public education and the quality of life in California,” he said. “The adoption of this budget will position the state to lead the country as it slowly recovers from the Great Recession.”

To eliminate a budget shortfall estimated at $25.4 billion, Brown’s budget proposes $12.5 billion in spending cuts, $12 billion in increased tax revenues, and $1.9 billion in unspecified “other solutions” to close the gap and provide for a $1 billion reserve.

“Everyday Californians should understand that there is something here for everyone to hate, little for anyone to like … a tough budget for a tough economy,” says Jessica Levinson, political reform director for the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles. “Democrats will scream at the top of their lungs about the cuts in this and Republicans will abhor the tax increases.”

In order for Brown’s budget to be adopted, California’s Legislature will have to push through changes to certain current laws by March, while other ballot measures will have to be approved by voters in a special vote in June.

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