Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Friday, Jan. 6, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

The state Constitution requires governors to unveil their proposed budgets for the next fiscal year by Jan. 10.

Jerry Brown’s 2012-13 proposal was hastily released Thursday, five days before its scheduled delivery, after it inadvertently found its way onto a state website.

“This is an honest budget that got started a little earlier than expected,” Brown told reporters at an afternoon briefing that caught many legislators by surprise. He later described it as “based on my experience … the best I can put together.”

And that may be true, but it’s not a complete fiscal plan for the state, as Brown indirectly acknowledged, and it probably bears only passing resemblance to what will actually happen during the fiscal year that begins on July 1.

For one thing, it assumes that the Legislature will act quickly on billions of dollars in spending cuts, especially in health and welfare services, to begin chipping away at the projected deficit, but the leader of the state Senate, Darrell Steinberg, quickly rejected early action.

“The cuts are premature,” Steinberg declared, adding, “I have a quarrel with up-front cuts in early 2012.”

But an even bigger uncertainty is Brown’s budget assumption that voters will pass a $7 billion per year increase in sales and income taxes next November, more than $4 billion of which would be received during the fiscal year – backed by “trigger” spending cuts, mostly in education, that would occur automatically if voters say “no.”

If that sounds familiar, it’s because the 2011-12 budget that was passed last June also contained spending cut triggers to be pulled if rosy revenue estimates fell short. Some triggers were pulled last month.

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