By Dan Walters
February 2, 2017 – 4:52 PM

State budgets have been easy-peasy political exercises in recent years, thanks to hefty increases in revenue from an expanding economy.

Gov. Jerry Brown has annually proposed budgets he characterizes as “prudent,” meaning they don’t spend everything coming in and set aside a few billion dollars in rainy-day reserves.

The Legislature, dominated by fellow Democrats of somewhat more liberal leanings, tries to raise spending. Brown then gives a little ground to the pleaders, but also makes some symbolic line-item reductions, and that’s that.

This year may be different.

Brown’s annual warnings about an economic downturn are a little more animated because he sees revenue growth flattening out, and he’s tightened up even more on spending – even for K-12 schools, the largest and most popular segment of the budget. He wants schools, in effect, to give back money from previous budgets because revenues fell short of estimates on which appropriations were based.

Although his tighter-than-usual attitude on spending still would increase the overall budget slightly, legislators are clearly unhappy, as initial budget hearings, including one in the Assembly on Thursday, have shown.

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