Here's a sure sign your state is in deep trouble: when the governor delivers -- just in time for the holidays -- the "good news" that he's only going to have to trigger $1 billion in mid-year budget cuts.
That's what Gov. Jerry Brown did today, and yes, the news could have been worse. Some $2 billion in trigger cuts had been anticipated.
But Brown's department of finance came up with a much more optimistic assessment of how short revenues would be. Only $2.2 billion! Merry Christmas!
A previous estimate by the Legislative Analyst's Office -- Bah, humbug -- had put the shortage at close to $4 billion for the current budget year--which made sense since the budget was closed with $4 billion in revenue assumptions. Fortunately, the department of finance -- which unlike the independent LAO works for the governor -- embraced the spirit of the season.
That means only $1 billion in cuts.
Congratulations, higher education.
Merry Christmas, disabled programs.
Happy new year, local government. You're getting cut, but it could have been much worse.
Now, some people out there -- the sort of people who practice human sacrifice and math -- might point out that the numbers here don't add up. A $2.2 billion shortfall in revenues produces only $1 billion in cuts.
What happened to the other $1.2 billion? Isn't this trigger business just another gimmick for backdoor borrowing and pushing costs into the future?
C'mon, don't be a Scrooge. We'll worry about the future when the future arrives, after the holidays.
A state like California needs to celebrate good news every chance it gets.
So grab a cup of egg nog and let's sing a few carols. "We Three Kings..." OK, well we had to cut it down to two kings.
But you know what, it could have been none.