Wednesday, April 6, 2011

(May) Revise and Resubmit

In normal times, the state budget is first submitted by the governor in January, per the California constitution. But there is a second stage, a tradition, of the "May Revise." In mid-to-early May, the governor submits a second budget proposal which reflects updated economic forecasts plus a gathering of political intelligence concerning what will fly and what will not.

There was a deviation from this tradition in 2009. In February 2009, the legislature both revised the current year's budget and enacted a budget for the following year - which contained the now-expiring temporary tax increases. Things did not go smoothly thereafter - you can find the details at - but there was no traditional May Revise because a budget was already in place.

When Gov. Brown came into office, he proposed a budget which involved extending the temporary taxes for another 5 years. The time table was to be 60 days between the announcement of the budget and its passage. But since a 2/3 vote was required to put the tax extensions on the ballot, and because the governor could not get the needed votes from Republicans to surmount the 2/3 hurdle, the 60-day mark came and went.

Yesterday, Gov. Brown indicated that he would continue talking with legislative Republicans, continue campaigning for his extensions, and not propose anything new for 30 days. Since we are now in early April, 30 days resets the clock for early May, i.e., a May Revise. The governor also says he will get his extensions on the ballot one way or another. He can use the initiative process but that means no vote until November, four months into the fiscal year. Even if he got Republican votes at this point and put his tax plan on the ballot via the legislature, the tax "extensions" would have become tax "increases" and the polling doesn't look promising for increases.

Brown is also saying that his upcoming May Revise will be balanced by some definition. (In yet another state tradition, the definition of "balance" is often quite flexible.) Does that mean he will offer a "budget from Hell," i.e., all cuts? Or does it mean a budget that assumes the voters will support in November whatever tax plan is then on the ballot? No one, possibly other than the governor, knows. It is not clear that he knows, either.

You can read an account of these developments in today's Sacramento Bee at

And maybe those of us in academia can help. We are, after all, experts in "revise and resubmit":


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