Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Wednesday, Mar. 7, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Political machinations over the state budget dominate every legislative session, but this year’s version of the annual budget game may be particularly bizarre due to a confluence of unusual factors, to wit:

• Not only is it an election year, but incumbents and aspirants will be running in districts that have been altered, sometimes hugely, by the state’s new redistricting commission.

• This is also the first year for a new election system in which the top two finishers in the June primary, regardless of party, will face each other in November.

• Legislators briefly lost their salaries last year when they failed to produce a balanced budget by the June 15 constitutional deadline, thanks to a 2010 ballot measure that also gave Democrats hegemony over the budget by eliminating the two-thirds budget vote requirement.

• The 2011-12 budget that Democrats eventually enacted was based on the miraculous assumption of an extra $4 billion in revenue. But most of the miracle money hasn’t shown up, and spending is running billions of dollars over expectations, so the budget is already way out of balance.

• Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature’s budget analyst are billions of dollars apart on revenue estimates for the rest of the 2011-12 fiscal year and all of 2012-13.

• Democrats are unwilling to deal with the deficit now, due both to election year jitters over spending cuts that would affect major constituent groups, and to the revenue uncertainty.

• Brown has proposed major policy changes in his new budget, including landmark overhauls of school finance, child care and welfare, that have generated angst among constituent groups.

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