On time, off kilter

first_imgTHAT faint thudding you hear may be the sound of California’s legislators and governor patting each other on the back. They are quite pleased with themselves, having passed the first on-time budget in six years. Which is to say, they’ve done their job, a job for which they are handsomely paid. But beyond getting the work done on time, have they done their job very well? The explanation for all of this year’s bipartisanship and harmony has a lot less to do with a change in attitude than a reversal of fortune. It’s easy to get along when you have $8 billion in unexpected revenues – courtesy of a red-hot economy – to spread around. There was enough money for everyone’s pet projects. Still, the budget contains some worthy highlights. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2For starters, there are no new taxes, and the state will pay down some $2.8 billion in debts. That includes $1.4 billion in gas-tax funds that have been siphoned away from transportation projects in the past. And community-college students will get a much-needed reduction in fees. But there are also some problems. Spending in the new budget comes to $131 billion – an 8.4 percent increase from last year. All in all, spending is up 30 percent from the $101 billion budget Gov. Gray Davis signed in 2003, just months before being recalled, in part for being a reckless big spender. Despite soaring revenues, the state will still spend $3.4 billion more this coming year than it will take in, an imbalance made up from previous years’ surpluses. And the budget will leave the state with a $4.5 billion deficit for Fiscal Year 2007-08. That’s assuming, of course, that the economy stays strong and revenues live up to lawmakers’ rosy expectations. If not, lawmakers’ “rainy day” reserve fund of $2 billion could easily be wiped out. Politicians can applaud themselves for passing a budget that’s on time and balanced. That will help them in November’s elections. But it will do little to bring California closer to fiscal responsibility.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more