SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a budget for the coming fiscal year Monday that deals with the state's ongoing deficit with tough medicine for nearly every Californian, making deep cuts to most areas of government while calling for a five-year extension of tax increases enacted in 2009.
In releasing his first budget plan, the newly elected Democratic governor said he wanted to end the types of acccounting gimmicks, borrowing tricks and overly optimistic revenue assumptions that characterized the recent budgets signed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
His budget projects the deficit at $25.4 billion over the next 18 months.
To close it, Brown called for $12.5 billion in spending cuts, including reductions in welfare, social services, health care for the poor, community colleges and a combined $1 billion cut to the University of California and California State University systems.
Brown also wants the Legislature to call a special election in June to give voters an opportunity to continue increases in the income, sales and vehicle taxes for five years. The taxes were approved two years ago next month and are due to expire this year.
They would generate $12 billion in revenue if voters agree to an extension.
Brown said his spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is intended to end the state's continual deficits and balance the budget for the next several years without borrowing money to do so.
"It's better to take our medicine now and get the state on a balanced footing," Brown told reporters in releasing his plan.
He said the only area of state spending he would protect is K-12 education, but that assumes voters approve the tax extensions. If they do not, or if the Legislature fails to muster the two-thirds vote needed to place the question on the ballot, cuts will be even deeper, Brown said.
Republican lawmakers reacted negatively to the prospect of extending the tax increases. Most of them have signed a pledge pushed by anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist, who runs a Washington, D.C., nonprofit called Americans for Tax Reform.
The pledge says they will not support any tax increases.
"Well, this is going to be a nonstarter with the Republicans, and I think the people of California, as well," said Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, vice chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee. "If that were to be taken to the ballot, I think it would be resoundingly defeated.
"It's OK to put it up as a strategic proposal, but for that to be part of the final agreement, I do not see that as a reality."
Voters rejected an extension of those taxes in May 2009 as part of a complicated series of measures placed on the ballot by the Legislature and Schwarzenegger, whose popularity was plummeting at the time.
Lawmakers will have to act quickly to place a special election before voters. Some Republican support in the Assembly and Senate will be needed because of the two-thirds rule.
Brown acknowledged that Republican lawmakers will be hesitant to support the ballot measure but said he was confident he could get enough support to push ahead with the special election.
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