Assembly Speaker John Perez fired the first shot of the 2014-15 budget wars this week when he released his “Blueprint for a Responsible Budget,” a document that sets the Assembly’s priorities for dealing with the unusual situation that finds the state looking at black ink instead of red.

“By following this Budget Blueprint, we can ensure fiscal stability in California by establishing a real rainy day fund and building the state’s budget reserve,” he said. “We can also expand opportunity by making prudent investments in job creation, job training, early childhood education and higher education.”

Perez uses all the right, voter-tested words: “responsible,” “prudent,” “stability” and “investments.” The speaker also talks about the need to build an $8 billion reserve by 2017-18, while still making his “investments” in California, which shows just how good the state’s fiscal picture now looks.

In the grand tradition of political position papers, though, Perez’ blueprint is long on vision and short on numbers. That $8 billion reserve over the next four years is just about the only solid figure in the speaker’s package.

Perez and his fellow Assembly Democrats want to see spending for Universal Transitional Kindergarten, which is a pre-K grade for older four-year-olds, expanded Cal Grant scholarships, more money for the UC and CSU systems, “modest” increases in CalWORKS welfare payments, an expanded earned income tax credit, “investing” in jobs and job creation, restoring public health programs, repayment of state debts and liabilities and “smart” use of one-time funds.

None of this comes with an announced price tag, of course, although few of those projects will be cheap. And in the days before Gov. Jerry Brown unveils his own budget next month, you can expect to see similar “responsible” budget plans sprout up from state Senate Democrats, Republicans, interest groups and every Sacramento legislator who has his or her own idea of what programs California absolutely, positively needs.

There’s nothing new about this and politicians regularly announce hard and fast positions they know they will modify as the budget talks proceed. You can expect that Brown’s budget, which his finance people say will be heavy on paying down the state’s debt and building up a reserve, will be little more than a lowball opening bid in the slog toward a final budget in June.

The problem, though, is that California Democrats have never really learned to handle the financial good times. When state finances are ugly, as they have been for more than a decade, legislators may huff and puff and make stirring statements about how cuts will destroy the fabric of the state, but in the end they still have to pick the least-bad alternatives and live with the complaints.

When the money is rolling in, though, it’s a lot harder to say no. It’s easy to see a multi-billion dollar reserve fund in the state budget, look around at the undisputed needs of the state and its residents and announce, “It’s raining.”

The good news, though, is that after a decade of fiscal disaster, even the biggest spending Democrat recognizes the need to at least pay lip service to the idea of playing the ant instead of the grasshopper and putting away something for the unknown but inevitable fiscal bumps of the future.

With Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor’s green eyeshade brigade predicting growing surpluses into the foreseeable future, it’s time for the state to begin restoring some of the safety net cuts that were made in the tough years not so long ago.

But as Taylor himself warned in his budget message last month, even the best revenue projections are estimates, not guarantees. That’s something that legislators have to remember as they get ready to discuss just how the state will be spending its money in the coming years.

John Wildermuth is a longtime writer on California politics.