Brown faces daunting, complex budget deficit

SACRAMENTO A new report out by the nonpartisan /*Legislative Analyst's Office*/ projects California's budget deficit to be a whooping $25 billion over the next 18 months, a shortfall most know won't be easy to solve.

"We think it's going to take time," said Mac Taylor of the LAO. "The problem is simply too large."

About $6 billion of the problem comes from the late state budget adopted in October.

It's falling apart because it relied on accounting gimmicks and money from Washington D.C. that probably won't come.

Another $8 billion in temporary tax hikes are set to expire over the next few months.

Needy Californians worry their social programs will be targeted for more cuts again. It's one of the few budget items that isn't Constitutionally protected from the budget axe.

"It's just no way to run a government and provides insecurity to all of our programs and people can't trust the government is going to be there for them one day to the next," said Mike Herald of the /*Western Center on Law and Poverty*/.

There's speculation Brown might call a special election next spring asking voters to extend those temporary taxes.

Public schools insist more revenue has to be part of the solution because they can't survive any more cuts.

"Are schools high enough on the list of things that people want to protect from deeper, further cuts? Because there's been an incredible hemorrhaging in school districts and we've got to do something about that," said Kevin Gordon, a public schools lobbyist. "The effort that's going to be waged by schools is to ask communities how much more in cuts do you think schools can endure?"

Judging from last week's election results, though, Californians are in no mood to pony up more money, even though in one poll they said they value some government services.

"They're not sure they want to pay for it because they don't have the trust and confidence of the state government in terms of the way they're handling money," said Mark Baldassare of the nonpartisan, nonprofit /*Public Policy Institute of California*/.

Brown is on vacation. A spokesman said he will be diving deep into the budget next week when he returns. In the meantime, his transition team is reviewing it.

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