The three core functions of a state are, famously, educate, medicate and incarcerate. And they should be long-term and ongoing.

Educating a person, kindergarten through college, takes 17 years. Medicate – and making people healthy – should be a life-long commitment. And incarcerate is not an overnight affair.

But in California’s Brown Era, our budgets are no longer long-term documents. They contain all the usual formulas, keeping a spending at a relatively low base. And any money that goes beyond the formulas – any extra budget capacity?

That doesn’t go to the long-term. No, it’s used for one-time needs.

The budget no longer sets up a long-term relationship—it’s a one-night stand budget.

And the one-time nature of the budget goes beyond the obvious one-offs – the revisions to prior year spending (which was downward in this last budget). The surplus depends on capital gains, which are one-time receipts in essence. And then there’s money from the previous budget year advanced, on a one-time basis, into the next budget year.

The one-time structure of the budget is a choice. Yes, there’s supposedly a debate between legislative Democrats and the governor about whether to spend more But so much of Brown’s budget is one time that it’s not much of a debate. There isn’t long-term money for big new investments—Brown has made sure of that. To the contrary, even though the economy is back, most of the lower spending levels of the budget crisis linger.

And Brown’s new budget is all about one-night stands. Among those one-timers are additional deposits into reserves, funding for some infrastructure, and allowing the traditional budget reserve to grow. Roughly three out of every four dollars that are discretionary in the budget are one-time expenditures.

These one-time budgets work in the now. It’s less than clear that they are the best way for the state to move forward into the future.