Gov. Jerry Brown trumpeted his achievement of steering California through a seven-year financial turnaround as he signed his 16th and final general fund budget of $138.7 billion.
Sharing the limelight with key leadership members of the California legislature, Brown referred to passing a balanced 2018-2019 budget as a collective effort of 40 million residents to invest in a common future. The new fiscal year begins on July 1,
The 79-year old Brown reminisced about the grim challenges he had faced when returning to the governor’s office, almost thirty years after completing his first two terms as governor in the early 1980s, and being forced to balance a 2011 budget facing a $27 billion deficit.
To balance his 2011–12 budget, Brown strong-armed his Democrat allies and state unions to slash education spending by about $5 billion; “realign” spending to dump $3.5 billion of health and human services costs onto the counties; cut public employee pay increases; and dump many discretionary social services programs.
The following year, Brown aligned with the California Teachers Association to raise $67 million for a successful campaign to pass Proposition 30, titled the California Sales and Income Tax Increase Initiative.
Prop 30 dramatically increased state income taxes on annual earnings over $250,000 for five years, and increased the state’s sales and use tax by half a cent for four years. Brown structured the initiative so that 89 percent of the tax revenue went to K-12 school districts, and 11 percent of the revenue went to community college districts.
Despite raising taxes over the last seven years by more than any other governor in history, a recent Morning Consult poll found that Gov. Brown is favored by 48 percent of voters, versus 38 percent of voters with an unfavorable opinion. In a recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll, over 70 percent of Democrats want the next governor to pursue Brown’s agenda.
Brown has warned this year’s candidates for governor that California has suffered 10 recessions since World War II, and he thinks the state is overdue for another recession. Although Brown has built what he calls a rainy day “piggy-bank” that is now maxed out at $13.5 billion, he told the Sacramento Bee that the next recession will cut state revenue by $18 billion per year.
Brown has suggested that whoever is his successor as governor will face two alternatives for how he governs California: “steady as you go,” or “exuberance, followed by regret, and pain.”
As governor, Brown has fiercely attacked Republican President Trump on a broad range of policy issues. President Trump responded by calling Brown a “nice guy” that is “doing a terrible job” as governor.