Gov. Jerry Brown, seen discussing his 2016-17 state budget last year, will release his new spending plan next week in Sacramento. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

John Myers
January 6, 2017

In the six years since Gov. Jerry Brown returned to the state Capitol, his relatively parsimonious approach to state budgets has been consistent enough to leave few watchers expecting major surprises.

But recent events in California and the nation suggest the fiscal proposal Brown unveils next week could be his most circumspect to date, even after voters in November approved billions of dollars in additional taxes.

“We have a number of significant fiscal pressures that are looming,” said H.D. Palmer, the governor’s budget spokesman.

Although the details of the new budget plan remain under wraps, the underlying economic data are hidden in plain sight.

On Thursday, the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office reported that preliminary tax collections in December — a key month for quarterly tax payments — were almost $1.2 billion below predictions. The state Department of Finance, which doesn’t release its December analysis until next week, has reported several months of anemic tax collections in comparison to the assumptions built in to the foundation of the California budget that Brown signed into law in June.

The absence of hundreds of millions of dollars in expected tax revenues — whether Brown will go so far as to call it an actual deficit remains to be seen — could only sharpen the annual haggling between the governor and legislative leaders over revenue projections, a negotiation that has routinely left Brown with the upper hand.

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