Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Wednesday, Jun. 27, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jun. 27, 2012 – 12:13 am

Gov. Jerry Brown knows that it’s difficult to persuade California voters to raise taxes, even those they may not pay themselves, as rejection of a new cigarette tax this month underscores.

In fact, polls indicate that his chances of winning approval of his multibillion-dollar sales and income tax measure in November are, at this moment, no better than 50-50.

As he fashioned the 2012-13 budget, therefore, he wanted to impress voters that he’s being tight with their money – hence, his public squabbling with Democrats over services for the poor, his furloughs for state workers, his agency reorganization and his pleas for pension reform.

One of Brown’s pitches has been that the budget would represent the lowest relative level of spending in decades, just over 5 percent of personal income. And other Democratic political figures echo that theme.

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer delivered a speech to the Sacramento Press Club last week in which, among other things, he repeated that figure and noted that former Gov. Ronald Reagan’s last budget (1974-75) was 6.02 percent of personal income.

Could it be that California’s budget is relatively lower now than during the Reagan era? Yes, if you take the very narrow definition that Brown and Lockyer are peddling. No, if you look at the broader picture.

According to a historic chart maintained by the state Department of Finance, Reagan’s last general fund budget ($8.3 billion) was, indeed, 6.02 percent of $139 billion in personal income at the time.

The 2012-13 general fund budget ($91.5 billion) that Brown and legislators have agreed to enact is 5.2 percent of today’s personal income, about $1.77 trillion.

So by those numbers, the Brown-Lockyer mantra is correct.

To read entire story, click here.