Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Jerry Brown was specifically nonspecific when asking voters last year to return him to the governorship – especially when it came to the state’s chronic budget deficit.

Although pledging to balance the budget without gimmicks, Brown refused to say whether he’d raise taxes, which he knew would alienate many voters.

Nevertheless, Brown’s first budget was keyed to continuing some temporary taxes that were on the verge of expiring.

“For 10 years,” Brown told reporters, “we’ve had budget gimmicks and tricks that pushed us deep into debt. We must now return California to fiscal responsibility and get our state on the road to economic recovery and job growth.”

Ultimately, the taxes – roughly $10 billion a year – didn’t fly because he couldn’t get a few Republicans to agree to place them before voters without conditions that Democrats would not accept. So Brown and Democrats then developed and enacted an alternative budget that relied, instead, on a new assumption that the state would receive $4 billion in extra revenue from an improving economy.

Scarcely a month later, that $4 billion windfall is looking more and more like the sort of time-buying gimmick that Brown promised to shun. In fact, revenues in July, the first month of the fiscal year, ran 10 percent below expectations.

The budget is loaded with shaky assumptions. A multi-billion-dollar raid on local redevelopment agencies is being resisted in the courts. A $150 fee on rural homeowners for firefighting is the subject of a referendum, as is a $200 million effort to collect sales taxes from Internet sellers. Reductions in medical services to the poor need a waiver from the Obama administration that appears unlikely.

The risky factors in the budget add up to just about $10 billion, the same amount as the sales, income and car taxes Brown sought to extend.

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