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Why Jerry Brown's budget gambit may backfire with California voters

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“The budget signed today looks a lot like the budget signed last year, in that everyone knows that it is out of balance when it was signed,” says Michael Shires, professor of public policy at Pepperdine University, in an e-mail. “This year, the budget is, at its signing, at least $8 billion out of balance, and we will likely incur at least half of that imbalance before voters get their say in November. If their answer is no, and there is at least a 50-50 chance it will be, the state will have to act quickly.”

One minus for Brown on Election Day may be President Obama’s strength in California.

“Brown is hoping that the pro-Obama electorate will pass his tax increase, but because the president’s strength here is so certain, [the Obama] campaign won’t spend a lot of money on voter turnout because they need the money in Ohio and Florida,” says Pitney. “So the Democratic turnout may not be as robust as otherwise.”

Political fallout from the signed budget is also proving to be problematic. The governor and Democratic lawmakers chose to be dismissive toward Republican lawmakers, say Mr. Shires and others. The choice could come back to haunt them.

First, “the creativity associated with the 2011-12 budget and any problems associated with this current budget will fall squarely on the shoulders of Democrats heading into the 2014 state elections,” says Shires. “It will be easy for Republicans to say they had nothing to do with it.”   

Second, freezing out the Republicans could make it harder for the tax increases to pass.

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