By Len Feldman
Urge your lawmakers to support Gov. Brown’s proposed budget.
When Gov. Jerry Brown released his proposed 2011-12 budget on Jan. 10, he made it crystal clear that he wanted to protect education from additional cuts. He said that schools had already “borne the brunt” of the state’s budget reductions, having suffered more than $18 billion in cuts over the past three years.
To preserve vital revenues for schools, the governor proposed extending the state’s temporary taxes. That proposal aims to head off additional cuts that could pare another $4.6 billion from the already fiscally beleaguered public schools.
Giving Californians the opportunity to vote on the extension, the governor’s preferred route, would likely require a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature. Working with the governor, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez are expected to spearhead the efforts in their respective houses to put the issue before the voters.
CTA’s policymaking body, the 800-member State Council of Education, voted at its February meeting to endorse the governor’s budget plan, with its call for extending the state’s temporary taxes.
“We appreciate the governor’s efforts to limit cuts to education,” said CTA President David A. Sanchez. “Schools and our students have suffered the loss of more than 40,000 educators due to layoffs. These cuts have translated into dramatically higher class sizes; the elimination of nurses, counselors, and other vital staff; and the loss of art, music, and other classes that help keep students engaged.”
As the Educator went to press, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office had just released information about the severity of the additional cuts the state would have to make — around another $12.5 billion beyond those already in the governor’s proposal — should the temporary taxes not be extended. That means $4.6 billion less for K-12 schools than Brown proposed, as well as a $1.7 billion reduction to community colleges and universities.
The governor’s proposed tax extension and his plan to shield schools from additional cuts is reflected in two key sentences in his budget documents that underscore the importance of education and spotlight how pervasive the cuts have been: “The Budget recognizes that the education of California’s children is a core function of government. It also recognizes that education has borne a disproportionate share of budget reductions in recent years.”
These financial realities led Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to proclaim that California’s schools are in a financial crisis and the state must find new revenues to help fund public education.
The governor has asked the Legislature to act quickly on his budget proposal. In fact, he is hoping to have the spending plan adopted within 60 days of Jan. 31, much earlier than the June 15 deadline set by the state constitution. The governor is also calling on lawmakers to approve the tax-extension revenue measure quickly so that it can go to voters in a special election prior to the June budget deadline.
The actions create an accelerated unusual timeline for the new budget.
The normal timeline is the one sketched out in the state constitution: The governor proposes a preliminary budget in January and then issues a revised budget proposal in mid-May that takes into account updated revenue and expenditure estimates. The state constitution requires the Legislature to review the governor’s budget proposals, make changes, and then send a final document to him for his signature by June 15. The constitution allows the governor to reduce expenditures in the budget, which should be signed before July 1, the start of the state’s new fiscal year.
The governor’s declaration of a fiscal emergency, under terms of Proposition 58, has greatly accelerated the timeline.