Brown's "Tangibilitizing" of Budget Woes

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KQED/John Myers

It's almost becoming something you can mark on your calendar: the new governor rolls out a symbolic cut of what would be seen as frivolous state spending and then invites reporters to cop a squat on the picnic table-like benches in his Capitol office and chat about it.

And so it was today as well, as Governor Jerry Brown mused on his chances for a budget deal and, on the issue of symbolic cuts, seems to have invented a new word.

Today's target: the various knicknacks and tchotchkes handed out by state agencies as souvenirs.

"You know, these are nice things," said Brown with a convenient display of mugs, frisbees, even a battery powered fan sitting in front of him. "But at the end of the day, I think this kind of tangibilitizing, whatever people are trying to do, is not needed, and sends a bad message."

Yes, "tangibilitizing"... just a way of showing that both old-school Democrats and newcomer Republicans create their own lingo in the course of things.

Brown's kibosh on 'swag' comes on the heels of his quest to turn off cell phones and rein in the state vehicle fleet... all part of a well-orchestrated campaign to show some thriftiness in advance of what he hopes will be a June special election on $11 billion in taxes.

The key phrase there being, "he hopes."

Republicans in the Legislature remain the key hurdle in that quest, with one GOP leader opining this week that the tax election idea is probably dead -- for now.

The governor, though, continued to express optimism today. "I want to push this to a conclusion that will pass the ultimate test," he said. "And that's the voters."

A quick video clip (yes, I'll turn the camera the correct way next time!):

Brown also hinted that he may be warming up to the idea of showing what a $26 billion all-spending-reductions budget would look like, something he called a few weeks ago just too ugly to even discuss in polite company. Perhaps this too would be a, ahem, "tangibilitizing" of the state's woes?

Asked about the list Democrats asked the Legislative Analyst's Office to prepare of additional cuts, the governor called them "reasonable alternatives" of what would happen.

"I may even put out some of my own to clarify what the choice is," he said. Brown reminded everyone that the list would no doubt include cuts to public safety and higher education.

I then asked the governor about another idea bandied about in the Capitol, one he's avoided so far... and that's to have the Legislature vote on an all-spending-reductions proposal now, with voters being given the option to roll back some of those cuts by approving extensions of soon-to-expire sales, income, and car taxes.

"That's a fine idea," he said, "but it may not be one they will vote on."

By "they," he likely means Democrats in the Legislature. So far, the majority party has -- through budget committees -- put up the votes for about $12 billion in reduced spending. But yes, $26 billion would be a tough fight inside Brown's own party.

KQED/John Myers

Meantime, Senate Democrats are ramping up their rhetoric about Republicans refusing to put the tax question to the voters.

"It is now time for the entire Legislature," said Senate President pro Tem Darrell Sreinberg, "to allow the people a voice, to allow the people a right to vote."

Steinberg's photocopied sign -- and he says we'll see more of this -- only reinforces the sense that the true heavy lifting of the 2011 budget saga remains still sitting there, waiting to be heaved upward... the same place it sat when Jerry Brown took office almost eight weeks ago.

A quick clip of Steinberg on what the public expects:

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new multimedia California Politics & Government Desk.  He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades -- serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and, most recently, as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. He moderated the only gubernatorial debate of 2014, and was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.
  • Onespiceman

    What does a person do when he is being trampled by an elephant and stung by a mosquito? Go after the mosquito!

    It is so much easier for a politician to make public virtue out of saving string than to do something really tough like asking the unions to give back those little boxes of godiva chocolates that were served by the hundreds on taxpayer purchased silver platters.

  • Jsll

    If Brown really wanted to make a statement about wateful spending, how about asking his democratic cronies to put a cap in the number of bills introduced. It takes $40,000 to move a bill through the process and the d’s can’t help themselves. They introduce several thousands a year.

  • book it

    Cut $25 billion of wasteful entitlements and see if I care.

  • hello

    @book: 40% of the budget goes to schools. The rest goes for stuff like fire, police, libraries, hospitals, emergency stuff. Very little now goes for community care–that’s been pretty much eliminated. So if you use a library, feel the need for any sort of education (K-whatever), want someone to pick up the phone when you dial 9-1-1, you may not want to see 20B in cuts. But of course it’s entirely possible that there is no crime in your neighborhood, you live in a brick house all by yourself, don’t have any kids and aren’t planning any, and are so healthy you will never, ever go to the hospital. In that case you’re right: why should you care about the cuts?