When Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor released his budget projections a few weeks ago, he tempered the good news with words of caution. “We’ve given priority towards being careful about the additional commitments you make in the near term, and using those monies that we see coming in – those operating surpluses – to give the reserve a very high priority.”
Governor Jerry Brown has repeatedly insisted on keeping spending levels down, to break what he calls California’s “boom and bust” cycle. “It’s cruel to lead people on by expanding good programs, only to cut them back when the funding disappears. This isn’t progress; it’s not even progressive. It’s an illusion,” he said in his January State of the State address.
But with the state apparently headed for years of multi-billion dollar surpluses, Chris Hoene with the California Budget Project says it’s time to reinvest in programs like welfare and child care that were devastated during the recession.
“In many respects, policy makers are using this volatility argument as a crutch to say, let’s be cautious. But we’re at really low levels on a whole array of services, and so a little more aggressive behavior would be okay,” Hoene says.
That view has support from many legislative Democrats – setting the stakes for the budget battle that will begin early next year.