For all the headlines about how Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget
gave a funding boost to schools, the real news of his May revise press
conference was his full-throated, unqualified endorsement of a spending cap.

didn’t get into any details, but he said clearly that a cap was needed to give
voters reassurance that if they were to raise taxes, the extra money would be
spent prudently. "We need a spending limit. We definitely should put a cap in,"
he said, adding: "That would give voters assurance."

statement puts Democrats in a box. They’ve pushed for temporary tax extensions
that are clean, without a spending limit attached. In 2009, when presented with
a rainy day fund that might limit spending in combination with temporary tax
extensions, many Democrats and unions voted against the whole package. They
hated spending restriction more than they liked the taxes.

If Brown
were to beat the odds and convince legislative Republicans to go along with a
tax-for-spending-cap deal, Democrats and unions would face the same choice as
they did in 2009, with a twist.

Oppose spending restrictions that they don’t like and that
carry consequences which, given the complexity of the fiscal system upon which
a cap would be added, are scary and unknown.

Or oppose a governor of their own party.

That’s not
a pleasant choice. This support for a spending cap could be the beginning of a
long-expected clash between Brown and his own party.