Jerry Brown's Disastrous Plan for California

The Golden State governor champions higher taxes when he should be cutting spending.


Gov. Jerry Brown last Monday released "An Open Letter to the People of California," in which he called for the state's taxpayers to approve tax-raising initiatives to "fix" the state's structural deficit. Here is the letter and my translation of what Brown really meant to say.

Brown: When I became governor again … California was facing a $26.6 billion budget deficit. It was the result of years of failing to match spending with tax revenues as budget gimmicks instead of honest budgeting became the norm.

Translation: For ages, California legislators have spent far more than they take in. My party, the Democrats, loves nothing more than spending money. No matter how much money taxpayers send us, we will spend it and more in good times and in bad ones! But I came to power pledging to fix things, but I never had any intention to challenge the status quo. I am fixated on one fix: raising your taxes.

Brown: In January, I proposed a budget that combined deep cuts with a temporary extension of some existing taxes. It was a balanced approach that would have finally closed our budget gap.

Translation: In January, I proposed the same kind of kick-the-can-down-the-road budget promoted by my predecessors, which cut little and relied on gimmicks. Why else are we back here dealing with the same problems we always face?

Brown: I asked the Legislature to enact this plan and to allow you, the people of California, to vote on it. I believed that you had the right to weigh in on this important choice: should we decently fund our schools or lower our taxes? … The Republicans refused to provide the four votes needed to put this measure on the ballot. … Democrats went ahead and enacted massive cuts and the first honest, on-time budget in a decade. But without the tax extensions, it was simply not possible to eliminate the state's structural deficit.

Translation: I believe in the fundamental right to vote on higher taxes but I steadfastly opposed that same fundamental right when Republicans wanted Californians to vote on pension reform and other reform matters. I know the on-time budget was bogus. After those darned Republicans refused to fall for my tax-raising trap, I have been stuck. I haven't known what to do, so I'm back with another ploy to push for the same-old plan, figuring this silly letter will jump-start the tax-hike discussion again.

Brown: The good news is that our financial condition is much better than a year ago. We cut the ongoing budget deficit by more than half, reduced the state's workforce by about 5,500 positions and cut unnecessary expenses like cell phones and state cars. We actually cut state expenses by over $10 billion. Spending is now at levels not seen since the seventies. … Unfortunately, the deep cuts we made came at a huge cost.

Translation: The budget is still a huge mess as long as the economy remains in the doldrums, depressed by my party's zeal for regulation. We didn't really cut very much and the budget has grown dramatically over the last decade. Things like cell phone cuts were window-dressing that saved only pennies. State government continues to hire. That's why I am here today to "guilt" you into turning over more of your hard-earned cash to the state government, which will allow us to avoid painful cuts to state employees and to those many state retirees living large on $100,000-plus pensions. We only talk about cuts in services to the kids and the poor to help with this guilt strategy.

Brown: The stark truth is that without new tax revenues, we will have no other choice but to make deeper and more damaging cuts to schools, universities, public safety and our courts.

Translation: There's never enough money to satiate these public service agencies and no competitive pressures to force them to spend their money wisely. Actually, we could reform state government by embracing educational choice, outsourcing inmates to private prisons, pension reform, cutting salaries and commissions, and other measures, but we don't want to do that. Remember, the unions elected me and I am serving them as faithfully as possible. And I would never try to increase revenues by jump-starting the economy through business-friendly reforms because I view the private sector as a drag on our society.

Brown: That is why I am filing today an initiative with the attorney general's office that would generate nearly $7 billion in dedicated funding to protect education and public safety.

Translation: I figure the same voters who elected me would certainly be willing to vote for tax increases.

Brown: My proposal is straightforward and fair. It proposes a temporary tax increase on the wealthy, a modest and temporary increase in the sales tax, and guarantees that the new revenues be spent only on education. … This initiative dedicates funding only to education and public safety—not on other programs that we simply cannot afford. … I ask you to join with me to get our state back on track.

Translation: These increases will be gone in an instant and I will be back asking for more money. The public safety money means protecting huge compensation packages for union workers, not for actually improving the public's safety. The schools are substandard, but the teachers' unions won't let us get rid of bad teachers or improve them with market-based reform. We will be taxing the rich more (watch how broadly we define that term!), and more of them will join the exodus out of the state. Of course, when I say millionaires, I don't mean those many public employees who are retiring on the kind of pensions that only a millionaire could afford.

I ask you to join with me to get the state back on track—of spending without concern for the future.

Steven Greenhut is the editor of

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  1. That supposed ‘balanced budget’ was based on the fantasy that the economy would improve enough to raise state revenues.
    IOWs, the budget presumed someone was going to find the magic money orchard.
    It was a lie; Brown has spent an entire career lying.

  2. Brown: The stark truth is that without new tax revenues, we will have no other choice but to make deeper and more damaging cuts to schools, universities, public safety and our courts.

    Translation: So long as there is any chance that we could close the budget gap by raising your taxes, we will never make the necessary budget cuts.


    1. the voters will decide so what’s the problem?

      1. the voters will decide so what’s the problem?

        The problem is that just because the voters vote for a solution?

        That doesn’t make it a real solution.

        The solution to the legislature spending all of our money like drunken sailors–is not to give them more of our money to spend.

        Giving them more of our money to spend will not stop them from spending our money.

        It never has. It never will.

        I’m trying to imagine a situation where the government of California is so flush with cash from tax hikes–that it decides the time is right to cut spending?!

        It doesn’t make any sense.

        And that solution wouldn’t make any sense–just because the voters voted for it either!

        Does that answer your question?

        1. You came out of me.

          1. Vile jealous troll with nothing interesting to say.

        2. so, in sum, mr schultz feels the cali executive & legislative branches, along w the voters, are irrational?

          1. Nice strawman there triple asshole.

            He’s saying giving the voters of “spend moar money” or “spend moar money” isn’t a choice.

            1. er, a choice of.

            2. and if its voted down?

              1. “and if its voted down?”

                Then it’s still irrelevant. A bit more fortunate, perhaps, but it doesn’t matter.

                1. Just to be clear, I’ve been to Cali once. Pretty much an east coast kid.

                  But as I understand it, the proposal before the voters is simply to raise taxes. It does nothing to address the expenditure of monies by the state of California.

          2. so, in sum, mr schultz feels the cali executive & legislative branches, along w the voters, are irrational?

            In sum, Mr. Shultz feels that the solution to overspending is less spending.

            …no matter how 51% of California’s voters vote.

            The laws of physics don’t change just because 51% of California’s voters vote one way or another, and if the solution to overspending is less spending–then California’s voters voting for higher taxes won’t change that one bit.

            Once again–higher taxes does not lead to less spending.

            Show me why California would cut its budget if only it had more of our money to spend, and I’ll reconsider.

            1. so if the voters vote it down…then they’re NOT irrational? got it…

              1. Some of the voters understand budgeting and how politics work. Others are delusional, or ignorant, or irrational, or …

                Which of these two groups can muster the majority at the polls is up in the air.

              2. “so if the voters vote it down…then they’re NOT irrational? got it…”

                One last time, how the voters vote and what the solution really is? That’s two completely separate things–regardless of how they vote.

                That really shouldn’t be so hard to follow.

                It might be different if California had its own currency, and it was trying to fight inflation by balancing its budget through taxation…

                But California doesn’t have its own currency–and it isn’t fighting inflation. Giving them more of our money to spend will only fuel further spending, so slashing spending is the solution to overspending.

                Incidentally, higher taxation isn’t the solution to unemployment or a lot of other problems plaguing California, too.

                Jarvis foresaw this comin’ from decades away–God bless his little heart.

                Starve the beast!

            2. The laws of physics don’t change just because 51% of California’s voters vote one way or another

              This is california, you’re talking about, Ken…

              “It is believed in the state of California that…”

          3. Er yes, they are irrational, how does a once rich place with more resources and advantages than almost any place in the world get to be in such a mess ? Don’t bother with stupid conspiracies, the voters ultimately are responsible, no one else.

            1. too much hydrogen peroxide dumbing the masses down?

        3. I’m trying to imagine a situation where the government of California is so flush with cash from tax hikes–that it decides the time is right to cut spending?!

          Why do you hate the chillrens?

          1. Fucking illiterate…it’s chilluns!

            1. That’s chillun, cracka.

              1. That’s disgusting.

      2. You just identified why unlimited Democracy is possibly the worst system of government ever invented.

        1. Yeah, I definitely prefer personal autonomy and individual rights to democracy.

        2. There are much worse systems than that. Monarchy by inbred royalty, despotism …

          There are certainly better systems of governance than democracy based on individual rights and very limited government power. Eventually, out of desperation, someone might try one of them.

          1. Nope. You can easily threaten a monarch’s life and family into behaving – it worked for centuries in England. They even sat the King down a few times and made him guarantee their rights on paper. King Charles I refused to acknowledge the rights of Englishmen and the limits of his own power – and had his head removed for his troubles.

            Much harder to threaten half the populace – all those guaranteed “Rights of Englishmen” have been voted away now.

            Pure democracy is simply a dictatorship of 51% – not much different than despotism.

  3. Steven Greenhut examines the letter and wonders why Brown is still championing higher taxes when he should be focusing on cutting government spending.

    Hmm. How did Steven Greenhut manage to miss all these years the fact that Jerry Brown is a Democrat?

    1. My thoughts exactly! Its not hard to figure out that progressives always see deficits as a “revenue problem” not one of overspending.

      They really do believe in the magical power of government to get blood out of a turnip.

  4. America’s Greece.

    1. Insulting Greece isn’t really going to make you any friends.

    2. HEY, What about us?

    3. Not exactly. Greece pretty much invented the Western mind. California invented the Kardashian sisters.

  5. californians get the government they deserve because they continually vote for these fucking clowns

    1. I think it was Tip O’Neil who said that all politics is local. In California? All local politics is national.

      If idiot, culture war Republicans elsewhere in the country would shut up about immigration and gay marriage for an election cycle or two?

      Californians might not vote these clown into office anymore.

      1. You give California voters far too much credit.

      2. Do you honestly believe Californians would vote a free market small government politician ?

        1. I think they’d be less likely to vote for Democrats–just because they want to stick it to the gay and immigrant bashers in the South and elsewhere, yeah.

          And if you don’t think that’s what’s driving so many of California’s voters to vote Democrat, then you’re crazy!

    2. Not only do we vote for these clowns, but almost every bond initiative passes, as if it’s just free money.

      1. In the November election of San Mateo and San Francisco counties and cities, all school bond measures passed. The community college measure did not pass. I think people have a soft spot for K-12 school bonds. Also the bonds were of a smaller value. Had they made the community college parcel tax smaller it too might have passed.

        The other things that pass resoundingly are hotel taxes.

  6. But California has agriculture which means that they are not free to play blackjack in the forest because corn is immoral and picking berries makes you affluent and… liberty is they same as a dicatorship… so the state of the state is great… and that means……. everybody sucks but indians and………… here is a source from some pseudo-intellectual who says so and if you don’t believe him, you are a statist!!!!

    Ha; Got there first!

  7. Jerry Brown was elected promising to go to the Legislature and cut spending.

    He did (more or less), and they told him to pound sand.

    Now he’s going to the electorate to raise taxes – and they’re going to tell him to pound sand.

    Result: Another year wasted.

    1. Think of it as a year well spent. At this point, any time things DON’T get worse I consider it a success.

    2. Ah, well. Who cares? It’s only Californians who’ll suffer; and it’s not as if they don’t deserve to.

  8. OK yeah that dude realyl does seem to be full of himself.

  9. I figure the same voters who elected me would certainly be willing to vote for tax increases.

    On others. This is why so many of the proposals for new taxes are aimed at “the rich”.

    1. And yet this one includes a sales tax!

      I have to admit that if he wants to raise taxes, he could have done a lot worse than proposing to raise the sales tax.

      He threw plenty in there about taxing the wealthy too. That’s the great thing about Jerry–he always throws in enough for everybody to hate!

  10. California Uber Alles, baby.

  11. Let me guess: no dollar, once budgeted, can ever be cut, or we’ll be cast into the Abyss.

    1. Because it’s for the childrenz!

  12. I asked the Legislature to enact this plan and to allow you, the people of California, to vote on it. I believed that you had the right to weigh in on this important choice: should we decently fund our schools or lower our taxes?

    Yes, Moonbeam, because that’s all California’s government does is run the school system. It’s not as if the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, California Department of Insurance, California Department of Aging, California Arts Council, California Acupuncture Board, California Bureau of Naturopathic Medicine (say that three times fast, if you can), California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, California Horse Racing Board, California State Lottery, have ANY portions or functions to be trimmed. Nope, excepting education, everything the government does is vital and necessary to the continued survival of California.

      1. They haven’t had a hit record since 1967.

  13. the voters will decide so what’s the problem?

    dear Stupid-

    Until those retards decide to put their own money into the pot, rather than trying to shift the costs onto some mythical rich guy with bottomless pockets, they’re just a bunch of thieves and parasites.

    And, since it’s not really their money being spent, they don’t even care if it’s used effectively.

    1. damn that state control !

    2. You’re right: they are thieves and parasites. So if anything they do will lead to more pain and suffering for them, what’s the problem? Don’t you like seeing thieves and parasites suffer?

  14. Hey rich Californians,our governor may be dumb, but we don’t have state income taxes. Just sayin.

    1. As Reagan once said, people vote with their feet.

      1. You know it’s pretty bad when democrat convert Reagan is probably the most conservative president we’ve had since Coolidge.

      2. I used my Michelins.

      3. Big waste management firm decided just this week to “hate gays women and minorities” by bailing out of Folsom CA. On the plus side we have plenty of empty office space to choose from for all the new government and regulatory departments that the CA legislature is planning for.

        So we got that going for us….which is nice.

  15. He’s stuck, because the Democratic legislature won’t cut spending. Hopefully, he’ll receive a resounding no from us on the ballot initiative.

  16. This is all great news for Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon. California is strangling itself and raising taxes would just tighten the noose.

    California has TWICE tried to create its own single-payer health system. Something even worse that the MA plan. I would leave the next day and lots of other people would too.

    1. Except for the fact that all the Californians bring all of their addled notions to their new homes.

      1. Better lock down those borders to keep those filthy Californians from escaping, then.

  17. So, when did Jerry Brown get hired to be the spokesman for the Texas Chamber of Commerce?

    1. Welcome to our reality. Every Maryland governor since I can remember has been a spokesman for the Fairfax County (VA) Economic Development Authority.

  18. California voters don’t vote GOP because the GOP hates immigrants and gays, which is yet another left-wing/look-at-me-I’m-a-True-Libertarian lie.

    But rather, CA votes Dem because the Dems and the media (but I repeat myself) lie to voters and wrongly portray the GOP as anti-immigrant and anti-gay.

    Most Dems, like most GOPers, are against “state-sanctioned” gay marriage (not 2 or 12 men, women living together) and against illegal immigration. Not against immigrants, not against paying your fees, filling out the paperwork and waiting in line.

    Of course, rags like Reason and too many True Libertarians also purposefully muddle those issues to make Conservatives look bad.

    So really, Reason, you guys are no help on this issue of CA spending.

    1. So both the GOP and the Dems hate gays, but one party wants to spend more doing it?

    2. Wow, a line that makes you wait years and years, that you can be ejected from for paper-work mistakes, that is queing through a door that only allows a handful at the front to go through.

      It’s soooo reasonable.

      Mr Wholly Cow, you guys look bad because, frankly, you support dumb things. It’s a shame really. You’d have a lot more time on your hands if you weren’t so busy trying to meddle in your neighbors’ lives.

    3. Californians don’t vote GOP because they are majority Democrats.

      Democrats don’t have any plans to vote for Republicans regardless of how “centrist” they are. Go have lunch with any average Californian; they will complain about the current state of the government, but if you ask them if they support the opposition party, they will have a litany of reasons why a GOP government would be a disaster.

      Oh, and Prop. 8 passed by 70%. Californians are as much anti-gay-marriage as they are pro-Democratic.

  19. Tax LESS and spend LESS money????

    Where’s Tony when you need him?

    1. Sorry, my crank only turns one way.

  20. Right, Paul, not wanting the govt. to endorse homosexual relationships = hating guys. Fail.

    1. Why do you care what the government endorses.

      The government endorses all sorts of things, some smart, some dumb. Why do you care.

      Does the endorsement of gay marriage keep you from getting married? Does it interfere with the relationship you have with your wife?

      Why do you want to meddle?

      1. To be fair, Ron Paul has explicitly stated he doesn’t want the government in the marriage business *at all*, gay or straight. But most critics of Ron Paul not being fair or rational anyway.

  21. California is a perfect example of the tyranny of the majority when most of the government is paid for by only a very few people, there is no incentive for the electorate, who mostly pay no taxes, to push for policies to cut spending. It isn’t their money afterall.

    Nationally we’re heading the way of California unfortunately.

    This is why everyone needs to have skin in the game.

    1. Yep, the local bond measures have a senior exemption (even if the senior is a millionaire). So of course seniors would vote for it because they aren’t paying for it.

      We need a new law. If you vote democrat and make over $100,000 then pay an extra 1% in tax, and if you make over $1,000,000 and voted democrat then you must pay 10% extra in state income taxes.

      1. “We need a new law. If you vote democrat and make over $100,000 then pay an extra 1% in tax, and if you make over $1,000,000 and voted democrat then you must pay 10% extra in state income taxes.”

        You know all those celebs with ‘summer homes’ in, say Idaho? Wonder if those are occupied 6-months and one day each year…

  22. So I wonder. In the next elections, will CA voters be more partial to republican candidates?

    I recently met someone from SF who thinks that SF was not left leaning. It is just moderate.

    In SF, the right leaning politicians want 25% of new condo construction reserved for below market housing, and the right-leaning candidates want 40% reserved.

    I think the idea that republicans just want dirty water, that they want the poor to wither and die in the gutters due to lack of food and housing, that they want to gut the salaries of hardworking public servants like teachers and firefighters, that they want to ax public education so that the rich can afford to send their kids to even better public schools, so that children can work in chimneys like they used to 100 years ago is so ingrained into these people’s thick skulls that they would vote for a democrat yet again.

    Your only chance is if you want to cut spending, just run as a democrat. You can be a so-called balanced budget democrat. That should be sound advice for Meg Whitman.

    1. It is true…our “moderates” would qualify as far left liberals anywhere else in the country.

      But please don’t judge all real San Franciscans by the local politics. We are the victim of annoying transplants who come here to live out their “progressive” phase for 5-10 years before moving back to the suburbs to raise their kids (can’t raise them in the city because the public schools are shit).

      But you’re right, SF voters will vote Dem no matter what. They will also tell you how Republicans hate black people, conveniently ignoring the fact that SF’s policies have caused a 70% decline in the city’s black population. Cognitive dissonance is an amazing thing.

      But it is a “moderate” city in the sense that voters want socialism for other people but not themselves. They support housing for transients but throw a fit if said housing is placed outside poor neighborhoods. SF is, after all, the capital of limousine liberalism.

  23. You mean Jerry Brown is a fucking idiot….who would have guessed that?

  24. People who don’t have a net income tax obligation shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

    1. No representation without taxation.
      I think it has a certain ring to it!

    2. This is illogical: if they can’t vote they will not be represented by those with the power to change the tax code, meaning the power to determine who has an income tax obligation.

      If they don’t vote, they have no representation on any other issue either. If they are then beholden to none of the laws, that would be at least internally consistent logic.

  25. Sigh…
    Governor Brown, perhaps you should look back at the propositions on the ballot at the time you were elected. Prop 21 to raise vehicle license fees by $18 went down. Prop 22, which limits what the state can seize from local revenues passed. Prop 24 to eliminate 3 “taxbreaks for businesses,” fails. Prop 26, that requires a 2/3 supermajority for certain new taxes, passes. Note how taxes went down to defeat, as did attempts to remove current tax breaks while the electorate simultaneously made it more difficult to raise taxes.
    In addition, Prop 25 reduced the budget requirement from 2/3 super majority to a simple majority and yet the simple (minded) majority still can’t pass a budget that reduces spending.
    I ask, Governor Brown, given this voting record by the public, less than 2 years ago, what makes you believe that the public will be any more sympathetic to new taxes in 2012?

    1. “Because I’m going to do a better job vilifying the rich than my predecessor, and that’s why voters will vote with me to raise taxes. After all, the tea party movement is dead, and OWS is on the rise!”

  26. Significantly reduce the cost of delivering higher learning education at University of California. Let me show you how. Chancellor Birgeneau ($450,000 salary) dismissed many needed cost-cutting options. Birgeneau did not consider freezing vacant faculty positions, increasing class size, requiring faculty to teach more classes, doubling the time between sabbaticals, freezing pay & benefits, reforming pensions & health benefits.
    Birgeneau said such faculty reforms would not be healthy for Cal. Exodus of faculty, administrators: who can afford them?
    We agree it is far from the ideal situation. Birgeneau cannot expect to do business as usual: raising tuition; granting pay raises & huge bonuses during a weak economy that has sapped state revenues & individual income.
    We must act. Chancellor Birgeneau’s campus police deployed violent baton jabs on students protesting increases in tuition. The sky above UC will not fall when Birgeneau ($450,000 salary) is ousted.

    Email opinions to the UC Board of Regents

    1. MIlan Moravec|12.12.11 @ 7:40PM|#
      “Significantly reduce the cost of delivering higher learning education at University of California. Let me show you how.”

      Any reason why post-12 ed should be funded by the taxpayer at all?

  27. Isn’t it amazing that the tax paying class always buy into the “if you don’t give us more tax money we will be forced to lay off teachers, police, fire fighters, nurses, doctors, close hospitals, etc, etc. etc.” These are obviously the only places where there is any chance to cut expenses. Penions, bloated public employee salaries, redundant programs, duplicate departments performing the same functions, thousands of school districts all with their own grossly overpaid superintendants, and huge administrative staffs, overtime, waste, fraud and abuse are always sacrosanct and untouchable. Someday we’ll wake up and laugh out loud at such proclamations as Moonbeam Jerry has made and vote to recall him since he is obviously mentally unfit to govern. If California does this, it is doomed to collapse well before Greece.

  28. Incidentally, I bet Meg’s glad she lost that election right about now.

    Meg’s the CEO of HP.

    Governor Moonbeam’s running the shuffleboard game on the Titanic.

    1. If she’s smart, she’d be glad to have lost. Given the tenor of her failed campaign, it’s questionable how smart she was.

      Gotta figure that running for office is often about status and ego. So Governor of a prominent state probably trumps CEO of HP on that measure.

  29. Sophisticated and sexy, Patricia is what you would call a true beauty.

    Presently living and studying in the beautiful city of Rome, Patricia is a student of modern languages. So alongside her native tongue of Italian, she speaks English and Portuguese perfectly ? not forgetting a little Spanish!

    Patricia has a playful and happy personality. She is one of life’s seekers and likes to search out new experiences and loves to experiment. Fortunately for us she also loves modeling and nudity comes as a second nature to her!

    When she isn’t studying in Rome Patricia likes to head towards the coast and hang out at the beach. And who can blame her?

    A classic beauty, with long dark velvety hair and a blinding smile, Patricia is one of those girls that takes your breath away!

  30. The idiot voters of California were warned.
    They chose to swallow the Kool-Aid anyway.
    The ignorant can be saved. The stupid, not.

  31. Sure Brown is a yutz, and calling his approach more of the same old can-kicking is correct. But how does the author purport to address taxation in CA seriously without mentioning prop13 among other things.

  32. I enjoyed 9 years in Southern California. Love the climate, love the people, hate the government. I voted with my feet in 2010.

    California’s biggest problem, I suspect, is a mess of contradictory voter propositions, which tie the hands of the State legislature.

    There’s the famous property tax proposition, but there are also propositions which mandate ever-increasing spending on edukashun, making it politically very difficult to rein in educational spending.

    California voters need to pass a new proposition to undo the damage of previous pro-spending propositions. All the unions would, of course, vigorously fight such efforts.

    The California GOP, which seems to have a death wish, will continue to believe that one part “free markets”, one part “smaller government”, one part “anti-gay bigotry”, one part “immigrant-bashing” make a politically appealing meal for an electorate with very large numbers of gays and immigrants.

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