Governor Brown spent last week paddling his canoe on the left side. As the LA Times’ George Skelton put it, the Governor’s deal with the other teachers’ union “was not a negotiation between left and right, but rather between left and far left.”
If the Governor’s “canoe theory” of politics holds true, though, he’ll now need a deep stroke on the right side of the canoe. Here’s my suggestion:
The Governor should give his unambiguous support for the ballot measure, already scheduled for November, 2014, to limit state spending and establish a mandatory “rainy day fund.” Indeed, he could double down on this by committing to place the measure on the next available ballot – if not 2012 then in 2013 (if there’s a special election) or on the 2014 primary election.
This endorsement would be consistent with a concern he expressed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board, just days before he announced a rewrite of his tax plan to depend more on high end income taxes and less on broad-based sales taxes. According to the Chronicle, the Governor “noted that a heavily top-weighted tax would amplify the volatility of a state tax structure that already sways wildly with boom and bust cycles.”
The government spending reform measure would address just those concerns. It would require that state government deposit revenues into a rainy day reserve in good years, to be used only when the economy takes a dive or in case of a natural disaster. It would also require revenues from unforeseen revenue spikes (like the dot com or real estate bubbles) also be placed in this rainy day fund. Once the reserve reaches ten percent of state revenues (about $9.5 billion these days), any excess deposits could only be spent on one-time purposes, like public works or paying off debt.
Sadly, voters were scheduled to make a choice on this very measure this November, but in a strange and cynical move to attempt to influence other ballot initiatives, the Legislature moved the spending limit proposal to the 2014 general election. Governor Brown went along with this maneuver.
The Governor can remedy this lapse by endorsing the spending limit proposal. It would mitigate much of the fiscal risk from his proposal, and would give substance to the Governor’s stated concern over the state’s rollercoaster budgeting.
Follow Loren on Twitter: @KayeLoren