Governor Jerry Brown’s executive orders to have 48,000 state cell phones turned in and to cut in half the number of state owned vehicles were smart ways to illustrate the governor is cutting down on waste. Cars and cell phones are items the public can relate to. They have their own phones and cars, which, for the most part, are not subsidized by their companies or anyone else.

By cutting these items, Brown has left his mark that the new sheriff in town is trying to clean up the mess.

As most reporting on Brown’s executive orders note, the savings from the cuts range in the millions of dollars and make only a small dent in the multi-billion dollar shortfall the state faces.

And, there in may lay a problem for the governor and his plans in the long run.

Don’t get me wrong – I like the governor’s move on the phones and cars. As he said, this is just the beginning. He will go after more waste as he finds it. But, he may be undermining his own strategy. Is it possible the voters will think that his crusade against waste will get California’s fiscal train on the right track and the taxes he requests will not be necessary?

I make this argument in light of the recent PPIC poll findings. The citizens do not have a working knowledge of the state’s finances. As PPIC said in the press release accompanying the poll: “Most Californians’ views about the budget are not based on an understanding of where the money comes from and where it goes.”

One important example tested by PPIC: only 16% of the people knew that K-12 was where the most state money is spent.

How many voters will think the problem is licked by the governor’s quite visible moves? For example, when he discloses he wants to cut services such as in-home services, do people pay attention? Certainly, the intricate details of the government budget bounce off most voters like bullets hitting Superman.

Cell phones and government cars the people get. Other government service cuts are more complex and difficult to relate to for the general public.

Once the story of getting a grip on waste to solve the problem sets in, it will be hard for the governor to change attitudes. Don’t believe me? Ask all those education establishment folks who have pulled out their hair over the years when they hear the comment: “Why do schools need more money, the lottery took care of the schools.”

According to the California Lottery website, lottery contributions to schools are equivalent of 1.5% of school funding.

Voters will clearly remember Brown cut the cell phones and state car usage. They might think the budget problem is solved or on the way to a solution. Those tax increases he wants? Well, the people might think, we don’t really need them now, do we.