May 14th, 2012, 8:18 am
Posted by BRIAN JOSEPH, Sacramento Correspondent

UPDATED: 2:45 p.m.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday implored voters to approve his tax proposal as he presented a revised budget plan to address a deficit that has ballooned to $16 billion.

“We have a more difficult problem. We’re going to have to cut deeper,” Brown said. “But cutting alone really doesn’t do it. That’s why I’m linking these serious budget reductions — real increase to austerity — with a plea to the voters: Please increase taxes temporarily on the most affluent and everyone else.”

The governor’s revised plan calls for an additional $4.1 billion in cuts on top $4.2 billion in reductions already proposed in January, but Brown’s message was squarely focused on the state’s need for more revenue. Brown recently submitted signatures to qualify his seven-year tax hike for the November ballot. It calls for increasing the sales tax by a quarter percent while also raising personal income taxes for individuals making $250,000 or more per year.

If the taxes aren’t approved in November, Brown’s budget plan calls for an automatic $6.1 billion “trigger cut” in addition to the $8.3 billion in other cuts. The majority of the trigger cut would be to schools, which has Republicans grousing that the governor is intentionally targeting education to gain voter support.

“If the taxes don’t pass, (schools) get 97 percent of the cuts,” said Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, whose district includes part of Orange County. “…That’s a little bit disingenuous, because you know people want to fund education. But if that’s the lever that they can pull to get people to support the so-called temporary taxes that are now seven years, then that’s the lever they’re going to pull.”

In January, when Brown initially presented his 2012-13 budget proposal, his office pegged the deficit at $9.2 billion. Brown said it has since grown to $16 billion because of the economy and because the federal government and courts have blocked some reductions. But on Monday Brown had to acknowledge he played a role in the increase as well when he and the Legislature approved last year a budget based on the rosy assumption of a $4 billion increase in tax receipts. That money never materialized.

“Here’s the deal: We have an uncertain economy. We had very good revenues in June (of last year). It looked like we had the money. And therefore we put the budget together the way we did,” Brown said. “…It’s very easy to play gotcha.”

To address the bigger gap, Brown proposes additional cuts to Medi-Cal, the court system, child care services and in-home supportive services, among others. Brown is also proposing a 5 percent reduction in employee pay, to be achieved through negotiations with public employee labor unions. Brown’s plan to cut pay involves moving some state employees to a four-day work schedule and reducing their weekly hours from 40 to 38.

Under that proposal, some state offices would change their hours from 8 to 5 Monday through Friday to a 7 to 7 Monday through Thursday. For all practical purposes, the idea is very similar to the “Furlough Fridays” enacted under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the Brown administration and Democrats in the Legislature both said this plan won’t face the same opposition from public employees.

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