Published: Jan. 2, 2013 Updated: Jan. 5, 2013 10:40 p.m.

SACRAMENTO – In the ongoing drama that is the California state budget, the November election got all the attention, but the governor’s presentation this week may be even more important.

By Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to unveil his first budget proposal since voters on Nov. 6 approved his Proposition 30 tax increase, which will infuse billions of dollars in new revenue to state coffers annually.

After years of deficits and spending cuts, fiscal stability is almost within reach. But we’re not there yet.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office already has warned that lawmakers must be careful about spending in the next fiscal year or a manageable deficit, projected at $1.9 billion, could balloon once again. However, advocates for the poor and labor are clamoring for legislative Democrats to use the new tax money and new supermajorities in the Assembly and Senate to restore recent spending cuts.

That’s why the governor’s presentation this week is so significant. As the opening salvo in this year’s budget debate, Brown’s proposal will set the tone for negotiations through the June 30 budget deadline. Will he embrace his party’s newfound power and propose more spending? Or will he heed the analyst’s warning and tow the line on austerity?

California governors don’t usually reveal their plans ahead of the annual January budget presentation, but there are hints that Brown intends to keep spending tight.

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