Gov. Jerry Brown continues to lay his hopes for state fiscal soundness on a November tax initiative, but if it doesn’t pass, schools will face additional cuts that could chop three weeks off the next school year.
On Monday, Brown revised the 2012-13 budget he first released in January. Called the May revise, his new figures reflect tax revenues that have fallen far short of earlier predictions.
“It’s a difficult budget,” Brown acknowledged in a press conference.
If voters approve his temporary tax hike measure, Brown’s revised budget would actually increase funding for schools by $15 billion in four years, or $2,500 per student.
Brown called the tax initiative reasonable.
“I think it’s fair, and I think it provides a reliable source of funding,” he said.
The influx of cash from his proposed sales tax increase and income tax hikes on the wealthy would also break the state Legislature’s habit of funding as much as 20 percent of a year’s budget the following year, in a much-maligned process called deferrals.
But if voters shoot down the temporary tax increases, the pain will be even worse than . Instead of taking a $4.8-billion hit, schools would have to bear a $5.5-billion reduction statewide, according to the May revision.
“I’m planning on the voters going to say yes. I know that the voters don’t want to cut schools. I know the voters don’t want to cut law enforcement,” Brown said.
But Brown’s words had Bill Habermehl hopping mad. The soon-to-be retired superintendent of the Orange County Department of Education said he’s tired of Brown and the Legislature using education as the “whipping post” and a threat to hang above the voters' heads.
“I’m not an economist and even I can tell you: You can’t tax yourself out of a problem,” Habermehl told Patch.
But Habermehl is sounding more and more like an economist these days. He said he watches with grave concern how the business community views California. He cited Chief Executive Magazine’s recent ranking of California as dead last as a place a CEO would want to do business.
“Somebody ought to be screaming and yelling: Reduce regulations and get the economy moving again and schools will be fine,” he said.
Because the governor’s estimates of tax revenues have twice fallen short, Habermehl is not overly confident in the numbers Sacramento is using now.
“I’m more frightened now than I’ve ever been,” he said.
Meanwhile, students will be missing out on great teachers who had to be let go and important programs, such as science and the arts, that are cut, Habermehl said.
“You can never go back and give them that again,” he said.
Habermehl’s office has encouraged local school districts to plan as if the November initiative won’t pass. School boards must approve their 2012-13 budgets by June 30.
Brown said the May revise was “the best I can do.” And if the tax initiative doesn’t pass?
“Schools will suffer,” Brown said.