For those who thought Gov.-elect Brown’s budget forum in Sacramento last week was the same old – same old, think again. Here is a dense but fascinating slide prepared by the Department of Finance. It catalogs more than $66 billion in budget “solutions” that have helped create, extend and even worsen the deficit. Far from having cut the budget to the bone over the past three years, as many legislative leaders assert, taxpayers have been victims of a massive shell game.
The implication of this chart is that budget gimmicks have had a more corrosive impact on the state’s budget health than even the recession. They have permitted the Legislature to spend money – money they did not have – for years without coming to terms with the structural deficit. But the meta-message is just as compelling. By condemning this approach to patching the budget, the Gov.-elect has essentially foresworn their use – or at least made it politically much more difficult to take advantage of them in the future.
That is progress.