Jerry Brown is occasionally nuts, but less nuts than he could be.
Thanks to a tax increase, California’s supermajority Democratic legislature has access to roughly $6 billion per year in new revenue. Now along comes the governor—who did more than anyone else to cajole voters into approving that tax hike—telling legislators not to spend the money. “We have promises to keep,” Jerry Brown said in his annual State of the State speech last week. “And the most important is the one made to voters if Proposition 30 passed: that we would guard jealously the money temporarily made available.”
Brown retold the Bible story of Joseph’s counsel to Pharaoh, who had a dream in which seven lean cows devoured seven fat ones. Joseph explained that the fat cows represented seven years of plenty and the lean cows seven years of famine that were certain to follow. His advice: Set aside grain. Brown’s was to “pay down our debts and store up reserves against the leaner times that will surely come.”
He may be asking the impossible, and if the legislature can’t restrain itself, he will need to take much of the blame. The governor had stumped all over the state to win passage of Proposition 30, which sharply raised tax rates on high-income individuals for seven years and modestly raised sales taxes (by a quarter-cent) for four. Brown now takes pains to point out that the taxes are temporary, and that lawmakers should assume that voters won’t renew them. But it may be a little late for fired-up liberals to accept fiscal discipline. Brown is like the father who gives his 17-year-old son the keys to a 400-horsepower Corvette and tells him to drive the speed limit, forgetting that he’s the adult and the kid is a kid.