“Cruel budgeting,” in CA and WA

Dick’s column yesterday is about a blast from the near past: A proposed initiative for the ballot this year would reduce class sizes. This idea is very similar to I-728, approved by voters in 2000. I-728 “redirected money from a fleeting state surplus, one that disappeared shortly after the initiative passed.”

This year’s initiative “doesn’t raise taxes. It imposes costs and leaves it to the Legislature to find the money.”

Even the governor of California, Jerry Brown, gets that this is a bad idea:

Brown called the special session to make changes to a proposed constitutional amendment that would divert some excess tax revenues to a rainy day account. Brown wants California to save more money when capital gains tax revenue spikes; recent stock market gains and initial public offerings from California-based companies like Facebook and Twitter have sent those revenues soaring, but there’s no guarantee those gains will continue. . . .

The proposed changes come after a recession that hit California particularly hard. Revenue plummeted, and the state had to cut tens of billions of dollars from social programs and education. Brown has cautioned that the current boom — especially from stock market gains — cannot last.

And he’s fighting his own legislature in the process. Democrats wanted to spend much of the surplus on restoring cuts made during the last recession and on creating a new universal pre-kindergarten program that would have cost about $2 billion per year. Brown has said he doesn’t want to start new programs that would then have to be cut, or force cuts elsewhere in the budget, if the market takes a dive. . . .

Brown added:

“It’s cruel budgeting to propose a spending program and then have to finance it two or three years from now by cutting somebody else’s program.”