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Democrats Balance California’s Budget And Increase Education Spending

Memo Pad Politics

Democrats Balance California’s Budget And Increase Education Spending


How did California go from a projected $26 billion budget deficit to projected surpluses?

For years the state’s politics conspired to create obstacles to compromise.

As Governor Gray Davis attempted to deal with the sudden budget problems brought on by the dot com bust in the early 2000s, his political opponents — financed by now-congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) — launched  a recall drive that eventually led to the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Governator had to contend with the same obstacles Davis faced, including needing a 2/3 majority vote in the state legislature to approve any tax increase and decades of ballot propositions that mandated spending and limited property taxes.

So what changed since Jerry Brown was elected in 2010?

In his second stint as governor of the Golden State after serving in the 1970s, Brown was able to push through painful cuts that forced Californians to take the budget seriously. But what helped him most was the state’s demographics and shift toward the Democratic Party.

California hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988. And since Proposition 187 promoted by Republican governor Pete Wilson went after undocumented immigrants in 1994, the swelling Mexican-American community in the state has turned against the GOP. In 2012, after Mitt Romney’s comments about self-deportation reminded many Californians of Prop 187, the state went for President Obama by a margin of about 10 percent and elected a supermajority of Democrats to the state legislature.

Also on the ballot in November were ballot propositions designed to secure more revenue. One temporarily increased income taxes on high earners while temporarily increasing the state sales tax for all Californians to fund education. Another closed a loophole that large businesses had been enjoying, to help fund green energy.

Voters said yes to higher taxes.

Just a few months later, Brown announced that for the first time in about a decade, a governor of California was presenting a balanced budget. While Brown is calling for increased spending on education, especially in disadvantaged areas, most of the cuts of the last few years will continue.

“We have to live within the means we have, otherwise we get to that situation where we get red ink and then go back to cuts,” Brown said. “So I want to avoid the boom and the bust, the borrow and the spend, where we make the promise and then we take it back.”

Brown is also expanding Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, to cover 1.1 million more low-income residents as a part of Obamacare. The state is also spending more to end furloughs for state workers and to train welfare recipients.

Brown’s California shows that Democrats can deliver a fiscally conservative budget that stresses progressive priorities, while asking those who can afford it to contribute a little more.

“For the next four years we are talking about a balanced budget,” the governor said. “We are talking about living within our means. This is new. This is a breakthrough.”

 Photo credit: Mark James Miller


  1. Lynda January 11, 2013

    As California goes so goes the nation. It will be interesting to see if the results in California will play well in Peoria. The turnaround in the state has been quite remarkable. If the one party legislature in California can resist the temptation to spend too much our deficit problems may finally behind us. It is unfortunate that it took so long to change the make up of the legislature, but that is behind us now and the state must continue to right its problems.

    1. ROBERT C HASTINGS January 13, 2013

      Unfortunately, with the disastrous 2010 elections that gave the House of Representatives to the Republican party and most state legislatures also to the Republicans (along with the majority of governorships), the disaster of redistricting based upon the 2010 US Census put the local balance of power clearly in the hands of the Republican party. Witness previously Democratic states like Wisconsin and Michigan. The Democratic Party MUST devote all available resources to retaking the House in 2014, and thinking ahead to where we will be in 2020, when the next opportunity for redistricting comes around. We definitely dropped the ball in 2010, and we cannot afford to do so again.

  2. drzaius January 12, 2013

    This could be the rest of America if we could just get the obstructionist GOP the hell out of congress.

  3. Dominick Vila January 12, 2013

    The fiscal and economic achievements made by California in just a couple of years demonstrate the logic of increased revenues and elimination of wasteful spending. It is also important to recognize that they achieved fiscal integrity while expanding MEDICAID to prepare for the implementation of Obamacare next year, and is increasing education spending to ensure our young are prepared to meet the challenges they will face in the 21st century. Their successful approach is the exact opposite to what the GOP and it proves that austerity is not the only or the best approach to tackle fiscal problems or an economic malaise.
    The problems we have endured at a national level were caused, primarily, by irresponsible tax cuts, engaging in crusades using borrowed money to pay for them, deregulation that led to widespread fraud and abuse, and a Great Recession that further exacerbated our fiscal problems as a result of a dramatic reduction in revenues and increased spending caused by the need to support the unemployed.
    The administration and Congress should look closely at what Gov. Brown and the California Democrats did to turn things around in such short period of time, and should implement their policies at a national level. Saying no, obstructionism, partisanship, asking our most vulnerable citizens to bear the brunt of balancing the Federal budget in retaliation for the wealthiest Americans having to pay a little more in taxes, neglecting education, and using the debt ceiling and other economic crises as a political football is not the way to go.
    If our elected officials persist in their childish ways, we should clean house in 2012 and replace them with competent and committed politicians.

    1. Progressive Patriot January 12, 2013

      Right on Dominick! Since I don’t listen, I couldn’t tell you… so who knows how much play this story is getting in the Corporate Media?

      1. Dominick Vila January 12, 2013

        Probably not much, good news don’t elicit too much attention. The media feeds on negativism and sensationalism.

    2. ROBERT C HASTINGS January 13, 2013

      Sounds a lot like what Obama is trying to accomplish, and it sounds EXACTLY like what Clinton did (with Republican help, believe it or not) to balanceHIS budget. Of course, since these thingswere accomplished under DEMOCRAT leadership, the current crop of Republicans in Washington will have nothing to do with it. There are still reasonable Republicans in Congress, and these folks, I am sure, want to do the right thing; however, wingnuts from the Tea Party and Grover Norquist are throwing up senseless roadblocks toany kind of progress. As Norquist has so often claimed, he wants to shrink the Federal government to a small enough size that he can put it in his bathtub and drown it. As this group of Republicans claims the government IS the problem (a mantra they inherited from Ronald Reagan), they must realize that their big baby (the military) REQUIRES a large Federal government, to provide education, infrastructure, economic power to compete with the rest of the world, and all those other things a vibrant middle-class brings to the table to provide a competitive edge in a world economy. This country and the world will not work effectively if all there is is competing militaries and 200 + nations competing for ascendency through their militaries. Republicans, basically, want to return to the days of the Cold War, a clear FACT that the American electorate need to very soon wake up to.

    3. Doctor T January 13, 2013

      Yes! Am a Californian and voted for Brown both times! Some right leaning rich folks in Orange county are having hissy fits for their taxes going up but oh they do love the infrastructures and beauty of this state and having the most magnificent views money can buy without paying for the privilege. Pity, but the folks in my district also put in office Dr. Ruiz, who defeated good-for-zip Bono-Mack. She put on a dirty campaign and even the Desert Sun newpaper here (traditionally conservative) backed the good doctor. Congress needs a lesson from this, don’t they?

    4. steven c January 14, 2013

      so basically what this is this budget could have been constructed under Arnold but bi-partisan politics held it up. Now the Democrats under Jerry Brown are doing the same thing and calling it their own. Typical politicians.

    5. Bob Williams January 14, 2013

      What are you smoking, Vila? This state is run by the unions, and the unions own the politicians. We have city after city going through bankruptcy because of insanity such as out-of-control pensions. It is not uncommon for policemen to make $150K a year, and retire at over $100K after 30 years. A clerk at the Port Of Los Angeles docks makes close to $200K per year in salary and benefits.

      A 13 percent state income tax and almost 10 percent sales tax do not make for a great place to live. The governor of Texas makes regular recruiting trips to California in order to recruit companies to move to business-friendly Texas, and it’s working.

      In the last 10 years, we have had a population increase of about 10 million. Of those 10 million, about 150,000 were taxpayers – the rest are tax takers. The tax takers include state employees, welfare recipients, etc. According to Forbes, for every 100 tax payers, California has 139 “tax takers”.

      Check it out on Forbes dot com, and look for the article “Do you live in a Death Spiral State?”.

    6. montanabill January 14, 2013

      Because of a jump in revenues as the rich pushed income into a lower tax year, Brown and the boys jubilantly hiked their income projections for the future and announced, ‘balanced budget’! This ‘balanced’ thing is based on ‘projections’. Don’t get too excited until a year of real numbers. It might make for a real downfall.

      I’m sure you and the rest of this group, though, are very excited at the prospect that taxing ‘someone else’ might allow spending to continue through the roof.

  4. John Hayes January 12, 2013

    why doesn’t Texas $8 billion surplus get any recognition without raising taxes?
    keep in mind California’s surplus is “projected”

    1. Independent1 January 12, 2013

      Because it’s not based on good fiscal management, it’s based on the fact that Texas is an oil producing state that takes in billions of revenue from oil companies which is what drives their budget – aside from Alaska, North Dakota and maybe PA, not many other states have that luxury.

    2. Independent1 January 12, 2013

      Let me give you some stats as to why I say ‘it’s not based on good fiscal management’:

      Texas is 49th in the country in tax revenues collected per capita and 50th in revenues spent. It’s 44th in tax progressivity, which means it collects most of its taxes from working people and it comes in 50th in the percent of its population that have a HS diploma. It ranks 46th in the overall SAT scores it’s students get on entrance exams; and 49th in what it pays its teachers. It ranks dead last (50th) in having the most people without health insurance and also dead last in the number of children covered by insurance. And 49th in the support it provides to women & children in the WIC program, and it leads the nation in teenage births. It ranks 3rd in the nation in the number of people living in poverty and 50th with regard to the affordability of homeowners insurance. And Texas comes in 3rd in the nation in the number of public officials that are convicted for a crime; while being dead last in the percent of voters who turn out for elections. It’s 46th in the hourly earnings of its workers and 48th in the payout of worker’s comp benefits.

      Not a pretty picture is it??? Really amazes me that so many people are flocking cluelessly to this state in disrepair. As the writer of the article I just extracted some figures from for you said, if Texas really seceded from the Union, it would collapse upon itself very quickly.

      1. JSquercia January 12, 2013

        NOTHING illustrated the sheer STUPIDITY of Texas Voters more than the DEbate Performance of its Governor Rick Perry . He jumped into the Primaries as Wished For SAVIOR and left a Laughing Stock

        1. Doctor T January 13, 2013

          Guess it’s why TX ranks so low in education—Perry is a good example of it! Also, their chest-beating, bible thumping self-righteousness as well.

  5. Pamby50 January 12, 2013

    I actually read this at the bottom on Martin Brasher’s show yesterday. Wow was my first thought. Just 2 years ago they were billions of dollars in debt. Now they are talking about a surplus. How did they accomplish this? By doing what President Obama wants to do. Raising taxes, which Californians voted for, and cutting wasteful spending. What a novel concept. This article should be sent to every republican in congress.

    1. Lynda January 13, 2013

      You can take a horse (or elephant) to water, but you can’t make him drink.

  6. Jim Myers January 12, 2013

    The extremists on the Right will be howling at the moon over this article.


    Everybody knows that less WELFARE FOR THE WEALTHY will slow the economy.

    And so it goes.

  7. cats33 January 13, 2013

    Calif. is still in the toilet and will be as long as a dem is running it. States with Republican Gov. are really improving. Dems have no business running states!!!

    1. lousgirl84 January 13, 2013

      You are a total idiot. You make your comment based only on your political bias instead of looking at the facts. You are one of the reasons your party will continue to lose elections

    2. Doctor T January 13, 2013

      Moronic remarks..

    3. Lynda January 13, 2013

      There’s a very good reason why the Republican Party is meaningless in California. Comments like yours are an indication of the problem…not the solution to your parties problem.

    4. radzell January 14, 2013

      Yeh mississippi, lousiana, montana, or ny, california, maryland chose one.

  8. diverdown48 January 13, 2013

    Brown did it in California, Clinton did it for the whole country. Idiots do not know how to balance a budget. Democrats do know how.

  9. highpckts January 13, 2013

    CA. again on the leading edge! I fail to understand if a state is doing well, why other states or the federal government can’t follow their lead!

  10. highpckts January 13, 2013

    Oh my God!!! Another sore loser!!

  11. Lisa O'dell January 13, 2013

    Competent leadership inspires people. Arnold was incompetence incarnate. A Republican shill.

  12. onedonewong January 14, 2013

    Lets see the State has a deficit of $28 BILLION an unemployment rate of 10% and more cities insolvent due to pension benefits ad this is a success story??/
    Most honest brokers would say CA remains the tail end of all the states


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