Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Tuesday, May. 15, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Just a few months ago, Gov. Jerry Brown chastised “declinists” and “dystopian journalists” for their pessimism about California, particularly about emerging from a deep recession.

“Contrary to those critics who fantasize that California is a failed state, I see unspent potential and incredible opportunity,” Brown told the Legislature in January, citing supposed signs of economic recovery.

On Monday, however, Brown blamed a sluggish economy for revenues falling billions of dollars short of the rosy estimates in the budget he signed last June.

“You can never get it quite right,” Brown told reporters as he released a revised budget aimed at closing a deficit he pegged at $15.7 billion, $6.5 billion more than his previous estimate.

“We have an uncertain economy,” he added, describing revenue and deficit numbers as a “guesstimate.”

Whatever the deficit may truly be, Brown’s revised 2012-13 budget is as much a political document as a fiscal one, clearly aimed at persuading voters to approve new sales and income taxes next November.

One of the charts he displayed uses $16.7 billion as a goal ($15.7 billion deficit plus a $1 billion reserve) and claims that his budget relies on $8.3 billion in cuts for half, while counting on just $5.9 billion in new revenues, plus $2.5 billion in other moves, mostly one-time shifts.

His goal, quite obviously, is to prove to voters that he isn’t just asking them to pay more taxes, but is also slashing health and welfare services, courts, state employees’ pay and other spending categories.

“California has been living beyond its means,” he said. “There has to be a balance and a day of reckoning. This is a … day of reckoning.”

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