California’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office said in a report Wednesday that revenue estimates are a bigger “question mark” than usual in Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed fiscal 2013 budget.
“If our current revenue estimates are closer to the target than the administration’s, the Legislature will have to pursue billions of dollars more in budget-balancing solutions,” the LAO report said.
In November, the office forecast a budget deficit of $12.8 billion, which is $3.6 billion higher than the governor’s $9.2 billion projection. Brown’s shortfall includes $4 billion left over from the fiscal 2012 budget, as well as a $5 billion deficit for fiscal 2013.
The analyst’s office said the Democratic governor’s budget includes a rosier revenue forecast, lower education-spending estimates, and higher spending in other areas. Last week, Brown unveiled a $92.6 billion spending plan. Last year, California started the year with a $26.6 billion shortfall.
The LAO also noted that Brown’s proposed initiative to raise nearly $7 billion from temporary taxes on sales and on those making more than $250,000 is a cornerstone of the budget.
His budget would carve out $4.2 billion in cuts, mostly to social services, and if the tax measure fails, more than $5 billion in cuts would hit schools, universities and community colleges.
If voters reject Brown’s tax push, the LAO said the Legislature needs to carefully structure the cuts that will be triggered. It said lawmakers should be careful when setting the size and targets of the cuts to help reduce uncertainty in education, where they will hit hardest.
The LAO said most schools will likely pass budgets with the expectation of state cuts.