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Winners, Losers in Budget Deal

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    NEWSLETTERS

    As details of the new budget agreement come out, a look at three winners, and three losers, in the deal.

    WINNERS:

    1. Republicans.They showed they are still relevant, even in a new era when budget bills can be passed with a majority vote. By refusing to go along with tax increases (or even an election on temporary tax extensions), they forced Democrats to make cuts they'd prefer not to make.

    2. First 5 commissions. The commissions for early childhood programs survived, despite several previous budget proposals that sought to take money from them.

    Such a taking would have been good public policy -- since protecting broader education and health programs should be a higher priority -- but First 5 has special legal protection because it was established by ballot initiative.

    Democrats decided, with reason, that First 5 commissions might well win legal challenges to any grab of their money that came without a vote of the people.

    3. California's own brick-and-mortar retailers. They won in two ways. Sales taxes will now drop by one penny because Gov. Brown didn't get his temporary taxes. And the budget agreement includes language to collect tax on on-line purchases on Amazon.

    LOSERS:

    1. Higher education and California's economic future. The budget agreement cuts another $150 million each from the University of California and the California State University, which also took a combined $1 billion hit in March.

    And it could get worse. If rosy assumptions about $4 billion in additional revenues don't come to fruition, trigger legislation in the budget could take another $100 million each from the university systems.

    It is way past time for the universities to fight back, and demand from voters the same kind of special protection that First 5 programs and others enjoy.

    2. Health and human services. The budget includes another $448 million in cuts to MediCal and Healthy Families, and a host of smaller conditional triggered cuts to such programs if the $4 billion in assumptions don't come to pass.

    3. Republicans. Yes, they make both lists.

    The party showed its relevance on taxes. But failing to make a deal with Brown may also have been a missed opportunity, since a deal would have included changes to spending formulas and pension rules the party doesn't have the strength to win on their own.

    They also blew an opportunity to eliminate redevelopment agencies.

    One last big loser: the truth.

    It was disheartening to see Brown, Treasurer Bill Lockyer and others call this an "honest" budget after a deal that is based on gimmicks and after a debate that was full of dishonest from so many different sides. 

    The honest -- and mostly ignored truth -- is that anything like an honest budget is impossible under California's system.