SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown said Monday he will ask a deeply divided California electorate to decide what they want from state government and how much they are willing to pay for it, bringing the state’s fiscal crisis home to every Californian.
In unveiling the first spending plan of his administration, the Democratic governor called for personal sacrifices from every citizen while deep cuts are made to programs that many hold dear, such as universities, community colleges and medical care for the poor.
He also intends to ask residents to extend for five years a series of temporary sales, income and vehicle license taxes or risk a “drastic breakdown” in state government.
“Here’s the problem: We’re very divided … My job is to find some common core here that we can agree on,” Brown said. “I’m just going to lay out the facts. Whatever they decide, obviously will be the will.”
His budget projects the deficit at $25.4 billion over the next 18 months.
To close it, Brown called for $12.5 billion in spending cuts, including reductions in welfare, social services and higher education, as well as $12 billion in funding shifts and new revenue if voters agree to extend taxes.
Brown also is seeking to fundamentally restructure state government, shifting a host of responsibilities, from incarcerating low-level offenders to providing foster care, to local governments.
Brown said his spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is intended to end the state’s continual deficits and balance the budget for the next several years without borrowing money to do so.
“It’s better to take our medicine now and get the state on a balanced footing,” Brown told reporters in releasing his plan.
Among the hardest hit areas would be recipients of Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for the poor. Doctors’ visits would be capped at 10 per year, a $5 office co-payment and a $50 emergency room co-payment would be added, and there would be caps on the annual benefits for items such as hearing aids and medical equipment. Brown also is seeking to eliminate the adult day health care program that serves about 27,000 Californians.