By Jay Thorwaldson
For years, state Sen. Joe Simitian has been repeating a budget mantra: "Spend less; collect more; do it now."
Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget finally does that, he says.
"This governor has stepped up and presented a serious grown-up budget proposal of the kind we haven't seen for seven years," the length of time former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been in office, Simitian said in an interview with the Weekly.
Brown's budget proposes $12.5 billion "in real cuts" and $12.5 billion in new revenues over 18 months.
Prior governors Gray Davis and Pete Wilson oversaw a period of tremendous growth in the state budget, matching a dot-com-booming economy, seeing an increase of about 60 percent between 1996 and 2000, Simitian recalled.
Then things began to go wrong.
"In 2001 things were OK. By 2003 things were seriously out of whack, which prompted the recall effort," Simitian said. Schwarzenegger displaced Davis as governor but failed to take decisive action on the budget imbalance, relying on loans and deferrals.
"Gov. Schwarzenegger always wanted to have it both ways," with spending and no new taxes, Simitian said, noting that state voters rejected budget proposals in a special election in May 2009.
To rectify a $26 billion deficit in the state's $84 billion budget will require painful cuts and other steps, including possibly adding new taxes, and raising tuitions and fees.
As a member of the state Senate committee on education, and a long-ago member of the Palo Alto Board of Education, Simitian has watched California's education budgets shrink and is much concerned about the future impacts on the quality of education statewide.