Rethinking Budget Trigger Unlikely, Says Speaker

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Pool/Hector Amezcua

Assembly Speaker John Perez isn't ruling it out -- never say never, one supposes -- but nonetheless says that talk of the Legislature stopping, or even just rejiggering, the budget's automatic spending cuts isn't likely to go anywhere.

"I don’t know of another approach that has greater support than the triggers that we already voted on," said Perez in comments to reporters after today's long and contentious meeting of the regents of the University of California.

The exact depth of the so-called "trigger" cuts won't be known for another two weeks, when Governor Jerry Brown's budget team releases its state economic and revenue forecast. You'll remember that the budget Brown signed into law in late June contained language that identified almost $2.5 billion in new spending cuts if revenue predictions dropped by more than $2 billion.

The prediction of the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office -- which, along with the governor's team, makes the assessment -- is that revenues will miss the mark by $3.7 billion, thus triggering most of the identified cuts. That would include an additional $100 million in cuts to both the UC and CSU systems, plus deep cuts in health and human services and a whopping $1.4 billion in cuts to K-12 schools and community colleges.

All of this has led several Democratic legislators, as well as advocates for those programs affected, to call for new legislative action to avoid the trigger from being pulled.

But Speaker Perez seemed today to all but say no to the idea, if for no other reasons than the impossibility of what he sees as the only viable alternative.

"The only way to avoid those triggers is to get revenue," said Perez. "And that's not going to happen, because none of the members of the minority party have shown a willingness to engage in that kind of conversation."

Perez went on to say that there's no reason to hurriedly convene legislative activity in December if there's no proposal that actually has a chance of passing. And he used the failure of the congressional "supercommittee" in Washington, D.C. as an example of what he doesn't want to do.

Of course, the Assembly leader's comments are unlikely to dissuade some from pushing for a second look at the trigger cuts, once the actual list is generated on December 15.

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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.
  • Ric822

    Yes this year’s (and the last several years) budget is a mess. No matter how this year’s budget is worked out, next year we will right back where we have been for the last few years. It is time for California to fix its problems, but I fear that those who get to make these decisions will simply try to punt the problems further down the road. They are not willing to make cuts and changes to the various programs that are needed to balance the budget. The problem is that we are at the end of the road and we will soon be off the economic cliff. Maybe we are already off the cliff and just have not hit bottom yet.

  • Speech85

    No worries.  We have a few things that are not protected by various propositions and federal mandates: law enforcement, roads, universities.  If we don’t want to increase revenue (yes, that does mean taxes) we can just do away with that.  We’ll have to. In 2008 the State was in such bad shape that it looked into declaring bankruptcy.  Turns out, that’s illegal–so it’s either bye bye to the cops, fire fighters and the like or taxes.  The choice is entirely ours.