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Jerry Brown Pushes For Taxes To Avoid All-Cuts Budget

Ryan Faughnder |
April 11, 2011 | 10:39 a.m. PDT

Senior News Editor

When Gov. Jerry Brown announced his budget proposal months ago, he promised that K-12 education would be one of the only state services spared. That promise was always contingent on an extension of tax increases that were put in place in 2009 to keep the state afloat during the recession. Given the breakdown over budget talks last month, it is looking less likely that K-12 will avoid cuts.

Gov. Jerry Brown (Creative Commons)
Gov. Jerry Brown (Creative Commons)

Brown visited Republican-dominated districts over the weekend to campaign for a vote on the tax extensions. In Riverside, he visited an elementary school and gave a grim picture of the situation to come without a budget plan, The L.A. Times reported. “There will be no choice but to make drastic cuts,” he said.

The San Francisco Examiner estimates this “all-cuts” budget” would mean $5 billion in slashes to K-12 schools.

Cuts to education cause drops in teacher compensation and growth of classroom sizes, both of which have negative effects on education, said Eric Larsen, a K-12 education expert with the Public Policy Institute of California.

“Schools are being hit on the federal level, the state level and possibly the local level,” Larsen said.

Weekly compensation for teachers is significantly lower than for professionals with similar experiences, education and other qualifications, Larsen added, citing a study by the Economic Policy Institute. These factors could also result in long-term drop in the quality of the teacher workforce because talented college graduates may be less inclined to enter the profession.

At the federal level, there are worries that budget negotiations could kill education programs such as the Obama administration’s Race to the Top.

Teaches unions and other collective bargaining groups have also been criticized in the budget fight for not budging on pay or pension issues.

State Sen. Bob Dutton, who represents Riverside, snubbed Brown’s invitation to join him at his visit. Brown also visited San Bernardino and other Republican strongholds. Brown has failed to convince Republican lawmakers to put taxes on the ballot for a June special election.

Though Brown has already signed into law massive cuts to higher education and social services, mostly affecting the poor and the elderly, he still has a $15.4 billion shortfall to make up. He will present a revision to the budget in May or sooner, which will announce the plan to close the remainder of the gap.

Brown is still trying to get the tax extensions on the ballot in November. The Sacramento Bee’s Kevin Yamamura expresses skepticism about the possibility of hitting that deadline:

The June election is dead, while it's getting awfully late to collect signatures for a November initiative. Seems to me that if an election happens this year, it gets done through the Legislature rather than via signature.

But we're hearing of increasing reluctance around the building - except from the Governor's Office - about having an election at all. Democrats saw June as their best chance to persuade the voters to pass taxes, as well as the best way to lock down a budget solution before the new fiscal year.

In an interview on NBC L.A. on Sunday, Brown explained how hard it would be to get Republicans to agree to a tax vote: “To ask them to allow a vote on taxes would be like the Pope allowing Catholics to vote on abortion. It’s just unthinkable.”

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