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Our View: State takes a step in the right direction

Posted: January 13, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 13, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

It’s a step in the right direction but we’re not out of the woods yet by any means.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal contains some good things — particularly the elimination of the budget deficit (he claims we’ll have an $850 million surplus). There’s also more money for schools although we’re unsure how the Santa Clarita Valley and other suburban school systems will be treated in all this. But the most significant thing about the budget is that the governor delivered it with a heavy tone of restraint. He has figuratively wagged his finger at Democratic legislators, warning them not to overspend.

That’s all good. But the budget, which calls for a 7 percent increase in spending, anchors itself on tax increases approved by voters in November.

But those higher taxes — which drive Los Angeles County residents into the 9 percent sales tax bracket — are supposed to be temporary.

True, he’s calling for an $850 million surplus for the first year. But we must remember the $25 billion hole the state was in when he took office two years ago — a hole that the Golden State could all too easily fall back into in these uncertain economic times without major spending reform.

A reform in the way the state finances public education is clearly an idea whose time has come. But his school spending reform plan appears both unformed and uncertain in its reception.

A variation of a proposal that was already shot down, the plan is likely to run into opposition from lawmakers.

This budget is a good start — if the governor and the legislature don’t revert back to the old tax and spend ways that got the state into a mess in the first place.

There needs to be major reforms in spending and looming in that big picture, like the elephant in the living room, are greater pension reforms and the need to overhaul the state’s ridiculously redundant bureaucracy, its business unfriendliness and rebuild its infrastructure.

We appreciate that the governor in the first half of his term took a baby-step approach to many of the state’s problems due to their complexity and longevity.

But during the second half of his remarkable return to California’s governorship — after voters approved a good-faith but temporary tax increase to bail out schools and the economy shows some signs of stability — we call for the governor to help enact some bold reforms, and bury tax-and-spend habits forever.

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