SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown received praise from the Legislature's nonpartisan analyst Wednesday for producing a plan that could ultimately balance the state's perennially deficit-ridden budget, but the governor also received a sobering reminder that his proposal faces a number of obstacles in the months ahead.
The Democratic governor's budget essentially gives California's a choice: Approve higher taxes in the fall, or the state will immediately enact another $5.4 billion in cuts that could include reducing the school year by three weeks.
The state's nonpartisan legislative analyst, Mac Taylor, said Wednesday that if the Legislature passes a spending plan similar to what the governor proposed, California will have taken a dramatic step toward solving its ongoing deficit.
"The Legislative Analyst's Office report underscores the fundamental uncertainty of our time and, therefore, the financial imperative to be prudent, make the tough cuts now and give the voters a choice on additional revenues," Brown said in a statement Wednesday, reacting to the analysis of the budget proposal he released last week.
But the plan faces hurdles: It perpetuates the state's reliance on tax revenue from the rich, a volatile source that fluctuates greatly from year to year, requires support from Democratic lawmakers who are opposed to another year of deep spending cuts to education and social service programs, and hinges what is perhaps the most difficult to read: the whim of California voters.
Brown estimated that California faces a $9.2 billion deficit in the 2012-13 fiscal year, which begins July 1, and has called for closing that shortfall with a near equal balance of spending cuts and the temporary tax increases he wants voters to approve in November.
The analyst, however, gave a more conservative estimate of state tax revenue than the one Brown presented, citing a lower forecast of income and capital gains taxes from the wealthiest residents. The difference in overall revenue between the governor's estimate and the analyst's is $3.2 billion, mostly in income taxes.