Governor pulls $1 billion in trigger cuts to California social services

California Gov. Jerry Brown.
California Gov. Jerry Brown.
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Gov. Jerry Brown announced on Tuesday about $1 billion in midyear cuts which target higher education, child care and school bus services, but leave K-12 classrooms mostly unharmed.

The cuts are lower the previously-pegged estimate of $2.5 billion by the nonpartisan Legislative Analysts Office. Brown hopes this will allow the state to avoid deeper cuts to public schools that could include reducing the school year by up to seven days.

Nevertheless, automatic midyear reductions are expected to take place Jan. 1 to public schools, universities, Medi-Cal, and in-home support for seniors and the disabled.

"I'm sensitive to what these cutbacks do to real people," Brown told reporters Tuesday, "but I'm also aware that over time California does have to balance its budget. We have to exercise fiscal discipline and as long as I'm around here that's exactly what we're gonna do."

"This is not the way we like to run California, but we have to live within our means."

Brown and Democrats in the Legislature had hoped for a $4 billion increase in tax revenue through the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. The budget they passed last summer without Republican support was based on a combination of spending cuts, fee hikes and optimistic revenue projections.

Brown hinted at the possibility of further cuts in January, but declined to say how deep they could go.

"It's not as bad as it could be," said H.D. Palmer, deputy director of the California Department of Finance. "That said, I don't want to minimize [the cuts]. They're happening. These are real cuts with real effects."

The cuts include up to $100 million each to the University of California, California State University, developmental services and in-home support for seniors and the disabled. Community college fees would increase $10 per unit, and reductions would be made for child care assistance, library grants and prisons, among other programs.

While the University of California has stated that they will not impose a midyear increase on students, CSU has stayed mum on the issue.

The governor had proposed raising taxes in the current budget, but he wasn’t able to secure Republican support. He now plans to put a tax measure on next November’s statewide ballot.

Brown noted that the trigger cuts are less than the just under $2.5 billion the state had initially proposed if revenue didn’t meet forecasts. He expressed confidence that the state’s economy is recovering.