You can practically feel the progressive lawmakers vibrating in anticipation of what to do with their Democratic supermajority in Sacramento, despite giving some lip service to fiscal restraint. Gov. Jerry Brown will unveil his initial 2013-14 budget proposal on Thursday. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports:
Firmly in command of the policy agenda and controlling a state budget that is in its best shape in years, California Democrats are expected to push a broad agenda of fiscal and social change in 2013.
The vast list includes new taxes, revamping education spending formulas, gun control, health care, highway expansions and redefining Proposition 13, the landmark property tax protection measure passed by voters in 1978.
At the same time, Democrat leaders and many in the rank-and-file are urging self-restraint, knowing that voters could strip their supermajority powers in the next election if their reach is overly ambitious — particularly when it comes to taxes and spending.
"There will be tension," said Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego. "Some members want to win the Super Bowl right away and immediately repair the damage that's been done (by budget cuts). Most members realize we need to be careful — we can't spend money we don't have."
As always, any reference to government "budget cuts" should be read as cuts in the amount of money agencies and departments requested versus what they actually received and not less actual government spending from year to year.
As I noted last week, the desire to redefine Prop. 13 will be Democrats' solution for "not spending money they don't have" by, of course, trying to get more money. The spin has already begun to portray Prop. 13 as a loophole for businesses to pay less in property taxes compared to homeowners while ignoring the vast, costly regulatory burdens the state places on those attempting to engage in commerce.
Reporter Michael Gardner's story also contributes to the narrative that California's economy is improving based almost entirely on projections, which is a problematic way to look at the state's future. The governor's office is quick to point out that the state's projected deficit has dropped from somewhere north of $20 billion to somewhere around $2 billion. But as Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters notes, the budget deficits have been covered through all sorts of tricks, loans, and deferrals. The state still has huge amounts of debt to pay down.