Brown’s Budget: Fuzzy Math Again

Someone in California government has to take a math class.

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In his state of the state address last week, California Governor and new state cheer leader-in-chief Jerry Brown gushed over the "fact" that during the past year, the state's annual structural deficit was slashed to $5 billion from $20 billion.

As a result, the governor beamed, a balanced budget is in sight.

Bravo, except the numbers don't add up.

Just weeks ago, the nonpartisan state Legislative Analyst estimated that the deficit on July 1, 2012, at the beginning of the new fiscal year, would be $13 billion. The governor's office replied that it would be "only" $9 billion.

Either number is a lot more than $5 billion.

Add to those numbers the report by state Controller John Chiang that as of Dec. 31, halfway into the current fiscal year, the difference between expected revenues and expenses were $2.5 billion, suggesting an end of the year deficit of about $5 billion.

That's $5 billion on top of the numbers offered by the governor and LAO for the coming year.

Combined, these numbers represent an overall imbalance on July 1, 2012, of somewhere between $14 billion and $18 billion, considerably more than the governor's claim.

All this is disconcerting enough, but the problem only grows worse given the governor's desire to spend more on public education, the Bay delta, high speed rail, and numerous other public policy areas.

How can all these things occur, given the state's continuing massive deficit?

Brown says that most of the problem will go away if the voters pass his bundle of temporary taxes in November, which would bring in as much as $7 billion annually. But $7 billion is a long way from a gap of $14-$18 billion.

To repeat, the numbers don't add up. No wonder the public is so skeptical of state policy makers.

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