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In California, Revenues Rise Above Projections


As John Myers of member station KQED reports, Brown is urging caution and moving forward with a leaner California budget.

JOHN MYERS: When Jerry Brown rolled out his revised state budget, lawmakers could be forgiven if they felt they were being scolded by one of their elders. Brown, the 73-year-old Democrat who came back to the governor's office in January, was dismissive of state budgets crafted before he took office, ones that delayed the day of fiscal reckoning.

JERRY BROWN: There's something infantile about the idea: We spend and then we borrow. Well, in balance that's OK, but we've exceeded the limit. And what I'm saying is, the wall of debt has to be brought down. My plan does that.

MYERS: Jerry Brown's plan, say advisors, cuts in half the next three years of projected budget deficits. His first priority for the unexpected tax revenues is schools. Brown's budget, if approved by the state legislature, raises spending on K through 12 education by more than three billion dollars. It also begins to pay back some of the money schools are owed from previous years.

DEAN VOGEL: Really, what the governor had done with this, he has demonstrated his commitment to public education.

MYERS: Dean Vogel is the incoming president of the California Teachers Association. Just last week, the union and other education groups staged protests in Sacramento over the billions of dollars cut from school budgets in recent years.

VOGEL: Here we are, California, the eighth-largest economy in the world and we're funding our schools at about 43rd in the nation. It is really a deep hole that we've dug, and it's going to take a lot of hard work and determined effort to get us out of it.

MYERS: But while the unanticipated state tax revenues solve some problems, Governor Brown's budget continues to push for a longer-term fix, which he says requires additional taxes. And that's where the veteran politician has been stuck for the last four months. Brown's plan to extend the life of three soon- to-expire tax rates is opposed by Republicans.

JIM NIELSEN: There's still very fundamental differences.

MYERS: Republican Jim Nielsen is the vice chairman of the State Assembly's budget committee. He says the tax plan would stall the economic upturn. A handful of Republicans are required for the two-thirds legislative vote Brown needs. State Assembly member Nielsen is skeptical that will happen.

NIELSEN: I am not confident, as he is, that there are votes for tax increases. So in terms of compromising on tax increases, I don't see any place to go there.

MYERS: Brown wants the extension of tax rates ratified by a vote of the public. But some in organized labor are balking. The lateness of the election makes the budget mechanics complicated and polls have shown the taxes - income, sales and vehicle taxes - are unpopular. Still, Governor Brown remains steadfast.

BROWN: There are no taxes without a vote of the people, 'cause there will be a vote of the people.

MYERS: For NPR News, I'm John Myers in Sacramento. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

John Myers
Since 2017, John Myers has been the producer of NPR's World Cafe, which is produced by WXPN at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Previously he spent about eight years working on the other side of Philly at WHYY as a producer on the staff of Fresh Air with Terry Gross. John was also a member of the team of public radio veterans recruited to develop original programming for Audible and has worked extensively as a freelance producer. His portfolio includes work for the Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, The Association for Public Art and the radio documentary, Going Black: The Legacy of Philly Soul Radio. He's taught radio production to preschoolers and college students and, in the late 90's, spent a couple of years traveling around the country as a roadie for the rock band Huffamoose.