With a plea to voters to accept tax hikes, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed steep cuts across a variety of programs Monday to close a nearly $16 billion state budget deficit.
Public education from kindergarten though college could see billions in cuts, pending voter approval of tax hikes this November. The fiscal year starts July 1.
"We're going to have to cut deeper," the Democratic governor said in Sacramento while releasing his annual budget revision. "I'm linking these serious budget reductions—real increased austerity—with a plea to the voters: Please increase taxes temporarily on the most affluent and everyone else with a quarter-of-a-cent sales tax."
Brown said the state's budget deficit ballooned to $15.7 billion since January, when it was estimated to be about $9.2 billion. His revised budget includes billions of dollars in cuts—including a proposed four-day work week for some state employees, while allowing some offices to be closed once a week. There are also proposed cuts in home-care funding and Medi-Cal payments.
Funding for schools and the state's two major university systems will remain in question, however, until the November election, when Brown will ask voters to approve a bump in the state's 7.25 percent sales tax rate to 7.5 percent, and to increase the income tax rate on people earning more than $250,000 a year.
If the proposals fail, another $6 billion in cuts will take effect Jan. 1—most of them to community colleges, which could see $5.5 billion in cuts.
Brown's K-12 budget assumes passage of the tax initiatives, which could provide a 16 percent increase of $6.9 billion in funding compared with what was budgeted to the current fiscal year. If the measures don't pass, the budget includes automatic trigger cuts of $4.8 billion, the equivalent of more than the cost of three weeks of instruction.
The triggers make budget planning for the year ahead very difficult for the Beverly Hills Unified School District, which is already facing higher expenses from new state mandates. Last week, for example, the Board of Education approved $160,000 in spending to hire two additional teachers to meet a requirement regarding the credentials of special education staff.
"Just as we think BHUSD has found a way to maintain our programs and low class sizes, the state government finds a way to further deplete an already taxed system," board President Brian Goldberg told Patch. "If the governor's cuts go into effect after the November election, I am not sure where we will find the money without cutting what we call core programs, but others consider to be extras.”
Last year when the district faced similar budget cuts from the state, the community rallied to support the schools through the , organized by the . It is uncertain if that campaign could be repeated after the November elections.
The district may need to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Compared to January of 2012, Brown's recent revision to the budget proposes "far deeper" cuts, his office said in a press release. It increases cuts by $4.1 billion, bringing total cuts to state employee compensation, welfare, health care, higher education, courts and other critical government programs to $8.3 billion.