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Brown’s Budget Has Sacrifices For Everyone


Aired 1/14/11

In his first budget plan, California Governor Jerry Brown called for more than $12 billion in spending cuts and a restructuring of state government.

In his first budget plan, California Governor Jerry Brown called for more than $12 billion in spending cuts and a restructuring of state government to give more responsibility to cities and counties.


Michael Smolens, government editor, San Diego Union Tribune

David Rolland, editor, San Diego City Beat

Kent Davy, editor, North County Times

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

PENNER: On Monday, governor Jerry Brown released his budget proposal for the jeer beginning July 1st. His purpose was to estimate the state's $25 billion deficit over 18 months by making deep cuts and extending tax hikes. Reaction was swift, and it was polarized. So Michael, let's start with where's support if there is any, for the governor's proposals are coming from.

SMOLLENS: Well, you know, we're still working through that. I mean, clearly the democratic majority in the legislature for the most part is perceived to be in support of putting a ballot measure -- measure on the ballot this June to extend these tax increases that are due to expire. Republicans say that they won't vote for that at all, and apparently that it will require two thirds majority to do that. So they may need some Republican votes. But over all, everybody is sort of sorting through this. I think the key thing here is that there's a lot of variables, oddly enough, you're talking about $12 billion in cuts and $12 billion in extended or new revenues. That's the best case scenario. Under any other circumstance, that would be a horrible scenario. $12-billion in cuts. But that's the best case scenario. If the taxes aren't extended then we're looking at doing something with this whole $25 billion deficit. I think you're requesting to see a paradigm shift in people always trying to jockey to get money from other entities and so forth. Governments, local governments and state agencies are just gonna have to figure out how to do, you know, things with less, and maybe that almost certainly will require -- demand less services, and the governor's trying to frame this as a debate for the California people, not just in sacks to what kind of government do you want. A big component of this is pushing state services back down to local government control, which they were, which is answer they were before proposition 13. The reality of it is that they're just not gonna get that kind of money that they want to provide those services of so again, you're gonna see an awful lot of push and pullover these services. And we had a story earlier this week that they're planning on cutting back in the wild fire coverage of the state cal fire.

PENNER: Who's they?

SMOLLENS: The governor's budget would reduce coverage, you know, in the back country, which as we know has been increasingly urbanized or there's more growth there, and suddenly these crews that were supposed to be fighting wild fires out in the middle of nowhere, are defending homes and so forth. So well that's just one example of an area that we will see pressure being put on for changes and reduction in service.

PENNER: David, the people who are in favor of this idea call it Solomonesque. Which I think is kind of interesting. You know, take half the baby kind of thing. Half cuts, half extending tax hikes: I can think of two problems here. One problem is that the -- extending the tax hikes would have to go to the ballot in June. Of that doesn't leave the legislature much time to do all of its political maneuvering to get it on the ballot. And the second thing is that it seems to me that the voters defeated this back in 2009. Of did they not?

ROLLAND: Did they?

SMOLLENS: They did. Governor Schwarzenegger put on a tax -- these same tax increase extensions and it was defeated. But there was a lot of other things going on and his whole agenda got defeated.


SMOLLENS: So the new Governor Brown is trying to solely focus on this particular issue.

PENNER: Okay. So back to you on this, David. So even though a lot of people are saying good, half of his proposal is to extend the tax hikes, what are the chances that really can happen?

ROLLAND: Well, first of all, the -- you mentioned the time line in getting this to the ballot. Jerry Brown wants to get it condition in 60 days 'cause he pretty much has to in order to meet the time line for going to the ballot. The big question there is how is he going to -- what pathway is he gonna take to get it before? He would like to go in to a ballot campaign with bipartisan support for this whole package. That means getting some Republicans on board as was already mentioned, the Republicans are signaling that they're not gonna be in favor of this. He needs some Republicans to go in order to make this a constitutional amendment. Now from what I understand, and there's a lot of legal debate over this, and how else he can get there, he can simply make it an amendment to an existing initiative that have already been passed, say, something like proposition 63 from a few years ago, which taxed the Richard Californians in order to pay for mental health programs. They can amend that initiative and go straight with a majority vote, I believe, to the ballot. So we'll see how -- what path he takes. He may not have a choice, if he can't get Republicans to go on board. And we have this one Republican I think who was -- I don't know if he was speaking for all Republican, we'll see, Mr. Berryhill, who is the AG committee chair, I believe, was yanked from that position the other day by Darryl Stein berg because he said, oh, no, this is isn't the Republicans' problem, this is the Democrats' problem. So you own this problem, you solve it.

PENNER: Oh, my. Well, not having been there, of course, I can't comment on that. But the idea of continuing the virile partisanship that's been occurring in Sacramento is not pleasing, I think, to anyone. Let me turn on our listeners on this. And if you've checked out the governor's proposals, I'd like to hear from you on this. Do you think any of it is workable? Do you think that yes, indeed the pop husband would be willing to extend the tax hikes for five years? It is for five years. And at the same time, would they be willing to take cuts in just about everything except K-12 education? What would satisfy you as a voter in the State of California? 1-888-895-5727. 895 KPBS. Kent?

DAVY: One of the subplots that is fascinating about this budget proposal is that brown has signaled that he wants an end to redevelopment districts. There are 400 redevelopment districts in the State of California. And speaking of a budget hitting home to local politicians in ways that make them uncomfortable, you have people in Escondido who are sitting there trying to figure out, can they fashion a deal to build a minor league ballpark for the Padres under Jeff Murad? Well, that is only possible inside a redevelopment district. And if they're vanished, those projects go away as does the big hotel in Oceanside, the underpinnings of the whole San Marcos redevelopment district, that whole area in San Marcos has been built on redevelopment money. So a very interesting problem there.

PENNER: Well, we heard on These Days earlier this week from the mayor of national city who was saying, you know, you can't do that. That's what national city is building on right now. I mean, that's what's financing the changes that you see in national city. So yes, there are local governments that are not at all happy with this. Michael, on the other hand, there is the argument that using redevelopment money which is basically property tax money, in order to bolster the suffering schools and the suffering counties and these smaller communities does make sense instead of going into buildings, it should be going into repairing pot holes and takes care of libraries and social services.

SMOLLENS: Well, The People in favor of keeping redevelopment agency, their argument is that that's what it does. Even with the redevelopment agencies, those entities, the county, the schools will still get more money because redevelopment generates -- even though more of the tax increment comes back to the redevelopment area, they're saying sort of the rising tide lifts all boats, thing. Now the county obviously doesn't buy that. They're in a struggle with the City of San Diego, and potential litigation over finding an equitable way to keel with those taxes so they get what they feel is their fair share. So that's really always a strong push pull for that.

PENNER: We've gotten so involved in this conversation that it is time for us to take a break. But I'm gonna take the calls from our learners, which have come in at a great rate now. Right after the break. This is the Editors Roundtable. I'm Gloria Penner.

This is the Editors Roundtable, I'm Gloria Penner, and we were right in the middle of talking about the part of Jerry Brown's proposal, governor Jerry Brown's proposal that would eliminate redevelopment agencies and syphon that money into smaller governments, counties, schools, that kind of thing. And we've gotten a lot of calls on all of this. But I did promise David Rolland from San Diego City beat that he could have a word with us first 'cause as he said, he's jumping out of his shoes, go ahead, David.

ROLLAND: Okay, well, now there's too much billed up. No, okay. I suspected that we were gonna get into this redevelopment conversation. And the redevelopment part of this is really for the most part a long-term solution versus short term action kind of conversation. Take downtown San Diego redevelopment, for example. That was supposed to -- the redevelopment advocates are right, that down the road, redevelopment generates more money for the thing -- for the citizen services that we need. But suddenly now because the state legislature extended the life of downtown redevelopment, that time is way far into the future now. It was supposed to be just a few years from now that we were supposed to start reaping the benefits of that. But now suddenly it's not -- it's pushed out all the way till 2043. But right now, we have huge problems. Michael started this conversation by talking about devastating cuts that have to be made. Of the funny thing is, we're not really -- you don't have a lot of advocate -- social service advocates just crying, you know, screaming bloody murder over this, because they realize that there's nothing that can be done. I mean, we have cut so much already, and there's -- and the state is so out of budget, so out of whack, these are absolutely devastating cuts to social services that have been happening and now will happen to an even greater degree. For example, you have very, very low income AIDS patients who will now have to start kicking down for their own drugs. Which has the AIDS advocates up in arms saying that this is a death sentence for a lot of people basically. So when we're talking about whether or not, you know, downtown San Diego will have more redevelopment money to generate more money for some time, decades down the road, we have severe social service problems in this state at a time and now these cuts are coming at a time when these people need them most in the middle of an economic recession.

PENNER: I think that the governor is looking to forging all these interest groups that represent the different kinds of issues that you're talking about, labor, education, community associations, into some kind of a powerful force that would move his proposal ahead. I promised the callers I would get to them. Can you hold onto your thought, Kent? Okay. Let's go to Ron in Mission Hills. Ron, I'm gonna ask you and all the of the other callers to make it brief so we can get to you today. Go ahead, Ron.

DAVY: Real fast, recently our gas prices went up about $0.60 a gallon. Everybody shrugs their shoulders and goes, oh, darn. Why don't we raised the gas tax? In Europe, gas is $2 more per gallon. I read once, there's over a trillion dollars of gas sold every year in the United States. Look how much money that could put on the tables for the politicians to spend. And finally, not on diesel fuel, just gas. Thank you.

PENNER: Okay. Thank you, well, that's one idea. Let's hang onto that idea and move on to another caller. Okay. I'm waiting for my producer to tell me which one is up. And I don't see -- pick one. Okay. Let's take Shane in Chula Vista. Hi Shane, you're on with the editors.

NEW SPEAKER: One fast question. Why is our government favoring one type of income over another? You have billionaire investors asking why their secretary is taxed at a higher rate than they are. It doesn't seem right. Income is income. Tax it all the same.

PENNER: Okay. Tax all the income the same. We've heard that before. It hasn't flown for whatever reason. One more caller. And this one'll be Sherry in San Marcos. Sherry, you're on with the editors.

NEW SPEAKER: Hi there. To me, it's all one big crock to begin with. Of and what I think is if we reduced some of the crazy -- well, like Tommy Chong getting arrest forward a bomb, all right? We have a DA in San Diego who is just virulent about going after medical marijuana clinics and housing marijuana, you know, smokers and what have you, and that's a lot of money to -- you know what is it? $40,000 a year to house one criminal and if they would just kind of legalize and tax it, we could probably be without all of this rather than being blackmailed by Jerry Brown to take the least able, most helpless people of our civilization to the curb. I don't like him doing that to us and I don't think it's necessary because everybody has their little projects.


NEW SPEAKER: And this lady is making us all look foolish because every time she takes one of these criminals to federal court they kick it back.

PENNER: Okay. Thank you, sherry, we appreciate that. So everyone his or her idea on how best to deal with the budget. We'll get your final thoughts, editors. And we'll start with you, Kent.

DAVY: Well, one of the things, a detail that's in the appendixes to the state budget summary, if you go back and look at all the little fine print, is the numbers that allow you to make the observation that even though that this is a crisis time in a state budget, the number of state employees, year over year, is only gonna go down 1.2 percent. Their actual payroll, excluding benefits for that same number of employees, goes up 2.8 percent. So somebody didn't get gored.

PENNER: Okay. Of well, I'm going to take back what I asked of the other editors, which were are final comments because we're just about out of time.

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