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Simitian calls Brown's budget a 'grown-up' plan

The state may finally be making the hard choices needed, senator says

By Jay Thorwaldson

Embarcadero Media

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.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Earl Richards
a resident of another community
on Jan 13, 2011 at 12:44 am

There is very little difference between Brown's budget proposals and previous budgets, because Brown's budget is mastered-minded by the oil industry. There is no provision for closing corporate tax loopholes, no oil extraction tax and no oil corporation, windfall profits tax. Californians pay the highest price for gasoline in the nation. Brown's budget is the same, because again, it picks on the most vulnerable. Jerry appears to be working for Big Oil and not for the Californians who voted for him.


Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jan 13, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Earl -
Seems you can't see the forest for the trees.
In your case, the measure of a good budget seems to hinge on whether or not extractive industries like oil are taxed. At most, what do you estimate this tax would raise for California? Maybe a $billion at the outside? While not inconsequential, that solves less than 4% of the annual deficit. Clearly, a budget has to look at expenditures as much as it considers revenue sources.


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Posted by Big Trees
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jan 13, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Earl is right the TAX on the extraction might not amount to much. However the lie we are fed that our gas has to cost more than other places in America is getting really old. Do we tax our state gas companies profits sufficiently (Chevron?)or do they escape both the extraction tax and the capital gains taxes? Other companies come in and charge us huge amounts that end up in other state's coffers perhaps. (most likely not!)

Our state produces a LOT of oil and yet we still pay more than most any other place in the nation. Enough.

These same companies bend over backwards to prevent more efficient cars and other companies moving into "their" energy business. Many of them are slowing taking over the next energy businesses. This sort of capitalism is not working to our advantage.

The mantra that it's the environmentalist are stopping them from creating more refineries is also an old song. They have shut down refineries and improved their technology to save themselves money and restrict their own commodity.

The TREES are making everything in California cost MORE than elsewhere and pocketing the profits for themselves.


Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 14, 2011 at 12:08 am

".....collect more....." And where does government think we are getting this money from? The schools want more, cities are broke, and don't get me started on Sacramento. Who said the economy was starting to recover?


Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jan 14, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Earl, you're funny. What do you think will happen to the price of gas in California if oil/gas is taxed? You think the money will magically come of out of the coffers of the big bad oil companies, and never hit your pocket?

But to the real issue, congratulations to Gov. Brown for actually making hard decisions... and for doing little things (cheap inaugural, cutting cellphones and staff positions) that show that he means it. Every company has had to seriously think about every expenditure in tough economic times, and government should do the same. I doubt the legislature will approve the proposed cuts, but it will be quite a show to watch.


Like this comment
Posted by Charles
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Jan 18, 2011 at 5:29 pm

I am still wondering what Simitian means by 'grown up' plan. Wasn't he the legislator that introduced a bill that made it illegal to use a non hands free cell phone while driving. I believe he also introduced legislation increasing the age children could start kindergaten. I guess citizens aren't grown up enough to figure out when to talk on thier cell or what age they should send thier children to school. Thank God we have government officials who can tell us kids when we are seeing "grown up" legislation.


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