Golis: Revenues going up — now what?

  • California Gov. Jerry Brown, center, prepares to sign the 2014-15 state budget Friday, June 20, 2014, in San Diego. Looking on behind is state Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins. Brown signed California's $108 billion general fund spending plan Friday, which sets aside money in a rainy day fund and pays down state debts thanks to surging tax revenue and the booming stock market. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

For Californians, this past week was a long time coming. In one way or another, almost everyone felt the pain after the real estate market cratered in 2008.

For state and local governments, the annual budget process became an exercise in unhappy choices, usually involving cutbacks, lost jobs and reductions in service.

On Wednesday, excited about increased state support, officials at Sonoma State University announced plans to hire 45 new faculty members. Going forward, the campus can add 270 additional full-time students, and those students can now expect the classes necessary to graduate in four years.

Imagine you're one of those students and consider what this means to your life and to your pocketbook. Now multiply that impact by the countless ways higher revenues translate into additional public services. Name your favorite — education, public safety, health care, road repairs, parks and on and on.

Nobody is proclaiming a new era of unlimited prosperity, but at least state and local agencies have a few more dollars to spend.

The $156 billion state budget bumps up spending for education, health care and human services. A new $1.47 billion Sonoma County budget provides additional monies for community policing, road repair and health care, among other things. With a new $357million budget, Santa Rosa expects to restore 23 of 200 city jobs lost since 2008 — with an emphasis on police, community development and parks.

Wiser for the experience — we can hope — state and local governments now begin the job of returning levels of service that existed prior to 2008.

Beyond these feel-good moments, however, the question remains: Has government learned from the hardships of the past six years? There will, after all, be no shortage of interest groups pressing government to return to its profligate ways.

The economy is different now. Even with new economic activity, unemployment remains higher than it was a decade ago, and more people are working in jobs that pay less.

Keep in mind, too, that not all the state's recent woes can be blamed on the recession. Even when times were good, the state Legislature couldn't set aside money for emergencies. It spent every dollar. And then some. You know about the debt and unfunded retiree benefits.

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