Gov.-elect Jerry Brown's first budget cut, announced Monday afternoon, is more symbolic than substantive: he's discontinuing a relatively new inspector general's office that was one of the inventions of his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
This isn't a big deal, in terms of dollars. Cutting the office saves $700,000 in the current budget year. That's a very, very small part of the current year deficit of $6 billion. And it's not surprising. The office was created to monitor the state's spending of federal stimulus funds, and the stimulus package expires next year. The legislature had balked at Schwarzenegger's efforts to change it.
In terms of symbolism, Brown is indicating he'll practice what he preaches and cut his own staff (The inspector general is part of the governor's office.) From a political perspective, he may be opening himself up to the charge that he's reducing oversight of spending. But the threat here is minimal. Brown is likely to offer so many different cuts of so many different parts of the budget that an attack over eliminating this office could soon be the least of his problems.
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He's due to release his full budget proposal Jan. 10, but look for other little pieces of his plan to dribble out over the holidays.