Capitol jokesters are already blaming Gov. Jerry Brown's dog, Sutter, for accidentally posting his proposed budget online Thursday, prompting a hasty Capitol news conference.
Brown had originally planned to release the bad news budget blueprint next Tuesday, competing with the political news to come out of New Hampshire. Instead, the online mishap forced the governor to schedule a last-minute meeting with reporters.
"This is an honest budget that got started a little earlier than I expected," Brown deadpanned.
The scheduling goof aside, there is nothing humorous about the governor's proposal, which projects a deficit next year of just $9 billion. It includes deep spending cuts to child care, the state's welfare-to-work program, CalWORKS, and a half billion dollar cut to public schools.
But that could be just the beginning. Brown warned that unless voters approve his proposal to temporarily raise the sales tax and income taxes on the wealthy, more trigger cuts would be necessary.
"We're making some painful reductions. This is not nice stuff," Brown said. "But that's what it takes to balance the budget and that assumes we get our tax revenues."
Brown's tax plan would raise just under $7 billion. If voters turn it down in November, Brown's plan would cut schools and community colleges by almost $5 billion. That's equivalent to shortening the school year by three weeks.
Brown insisted Thursday these projected cuts were not politically motivated, saying of the school cuts, "That's where the money is. Education is where a lot of the money is."
Other trigger cuts would include $200 million each from the University of California and the California State University system, a reduction in park rangers and beach lifeguards, and the closure of some fire stations.
Brown's plan is sure to trigger a new round of outcries in the legislature. It's a familiar sound. Democrats will be unwilling to look at more cuts. Republicans will dislike any tax talk. In fact, the Assembly GOP leader, Connie Conway, dismissed the plan as "reckless."
"This is all we can do," he said. "If there's a better way to do it, I'm totally open to it.