A good friend asked me today about the future. Specifically, what predictions can I make for how Governor Brown is going to deal with the California budget deficit. At the time I said I don't know. Thinking over the question, I think I have some clues.
- Jerry Brown is a Democrat. As a Democrat, he has no use for the Republican mantra that the only way to balance the budget is to cut government spending - cut it back, way back, waaaaaay back.
- Candidate Brown pledged not to raise taxes except by a vote of the people. Well, that was a pretty easy promise to make. The legislature isn't going to raise taxes because of the 2/3 vote requirement. The only way to get a substantial tax increase is through the initiative process.
- Jerry Brown has been in State government as one official or another longer than almost anyone else - certainly longer than any other person now in State government. By now he knows how the system works, where the levers of power are, and how much he can realistically expect to accomplish.
- Brown is noted for being frugal. He won't hesitate to cut the spending levels of may State functions.
- Brown as a candidate promised to turn over the funding of many local services to the counties and cities. If he does this, he will be able to make a substantial reduction in the cost of State government. Of course, local cities and counties may have to struggle and squirm to raise the additional revenue needed for the services - hospitals, fire departments, police, street repair, libraries, schools, etc.
I expect to see some initiatives to increase certain taxes. I expect counties and cities to have to find additional ways of raising money. I expect to see some willingness by the public to accept some changes in the property tax system; i.e., some modifications of Proposition 13. Perhaps business property will be taxed at a rate more in keeping with the ad valorem value than it is now. There will be much yelling and screaming and kicking by those business property owners who have enjoyed for thirty years the advantage of not having their taxes increased to keep pace with inflation. It will be an exciting time. I look forward to enjoying the fighting. I hope my health remains good for at least four more years.
Labels: Brown as governor, Prop. 13, tax increases by initiative