By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com The Sacramento Bee
Published: Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 1A

When Roy Bell, Jerry Brown’s first budget director, unveiled the then-new governor’s first budget in 1975, he called it a “dog-and-pony show.”

Fast forward 36 years. Brown is poised to resume the governorship a month hence, and on Wednesday, he and his new budget director, Ana Matosantos, conducted a new dog-and-pony show in Sacramento’s Memorial Auditorium, along with other state officials and legislative leaders, to showcase the state’s severe budget crisis.

Several hundred legislators, legislative aides and local government officials heard Matosantos – who wasn’t even born when predecessor Bell was advising Brown 1.0 – and the Legislature’s budget guru, Mac Taylor, describe a deep-seated structural deficit of $20 billion a year, twice as much as the entire general fund budget Bell unveiled in 1975.

The two presented charts demonstrating that the chronic deficit was evident even when the state’s economy was booming, albeit less severe, and that the stopgap measures adopted by outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislators had, if anything, worsened the crisis.

Brown acted as moderator, emcee and color commentator, occasionally offering appraisals of the data and expressions of hope that the crisis could be resolved.

“What we’re looking at today is much worse than it’s ever been before,” he said at one point, adding later that he’s seeking “a zone of political commons.”

Much of Wednesday’s two-hour show, which was broadcast on the Web and cable TV, was a recitation of well-known facts and well-worn ideological positions. Brown said it was designed to frame the issue squarely as a first step toward dealing with it.

So what does it mean in concrete terms as Brown decides details of a 2011-12 budget he must propose in a month? As he listened to Democrats call for more revenue and Republicans for spending cuts, Brown was noncommittal.

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