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The 15-minute California budget solution

Jerry Brown

I balanced the budget.

In a completely bipartisan way.

In 15 minutes.

In fact, I produced a $3.2-billion surplus.

Where do I go to sign up to be governor?

The Times has been offering a handy program, the California Budget Balancer, on its website for weeks. It's simple. It's fun. It's for the politician in all of us.

You start with K-12 education funding.  I clicked on the full funding option because, well, I have two boys in school and if I’m to have any hope of getting rid of them, they’ve got to graduate. 

After that, I unleashed my inner Republican. My motto: Never let an opportunity to cut spending go to waste.  Welfare -- cut it all. In home services -- cut. Grants to the elderly and disabled -- gone.  The UC budget?  Cut to the bone. Close those state parks. Ditto the community college system -- why prepare more kids for four-year schools when the four-year schools won't have enough money even for the kids who get in right out of high school?

OK, you'd think I'd have the budget balanced with my Jack the Ripper impersonation. I mean, I even put every prisoner I could back on the streets. But no, I was out of buttons -- and still $11 billion in the red.

Time for a little taxation, Democratic style!

Now, I like to drive, so I’m not touching the gas tax.  And hey, I’m taxed to death already, so those temporary tax increases – sorry, temporary means temporary. 

I guess that once you're in a Republican mood, it's a hard habit to break.  Like smoking.

Speaking of which, there are the cigarette and alcohol taxes.  I don’t drink, and I don’t smoke.  Max tax time, baby!

And I'm not now, and probably never will be, a high-wage earner, so in my best "pitchforks at the gates of the chateau" mood, it's tax the rich time. (Although I reserve the right to rescind this, pending the results of the upcoming SuperLotto drawing.)

Then there's the oil extraction tax -- are you kidding me?  As that guy says day after day after day on the radio, it's the biggest no-brainer in the history of mankind.

I don't know anything about business taxes, but everyone says that in a recession, to raise taxes on business is a job killer. I work, and I want to keep working, so I'm leaving that one alone. 

It's also a no on taxing Social Security -- I've got older relatives, and no way would I risk having them come live with me.

Finally, there are the speeding cameras. Anyone who thinks that's a good idea should be marched to the border and thrown out of the state (my wife included!). No true Californian would ever give up their God-given right to speed (actually, it's probably in the state Constitution somewhere). And if I could, like Ronald Reagan, I'd "tear down those red light cameras, Mr. Policeman!" but sadly there's no button for that.

And there you go. Simple, quick -- a bunch of draconian cuts, a few taxes and presto! A balanced budget and a rainy-day fund (here's to you, Arnold, whatever beach you're vacationing on this week).

Some commenters on The Times’ discussion board have lamented the lack of an "illegal immigrant" button, as if that would cure our budget woes. But not me.

I look at it this way:  After my proposals are put in place, who will want to live in California, legally or illegally?

Wait, did I just solve another problem? 

Someone get me the president.


Humanizing California's budget

Brown's budget plan -- pain everywhere

Readers: How would you balance California's budget?

Why Brown's proposal won't feel like a tax hike to most Californians

 --Paul Whitefield

Photo: California Gov. Jerry Brown points to a chart as he explains his approach to dealing with an estimated $25.4 billion state budget deficit. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / AP Photo


Comments () | Archives (20)

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Just wastes 3 min of my life reading this one.

Charles Pappa

The only worthwhile thing in this article is the link to "California Budget Balancer"


the budget balancer did not give me the option of re-negotiating contracts with correctional officers or using cruel and unusual options on criminals like putting tent cities in the desert where they would die of thirst if they escaped. The budget balancer did not give me the option of fully funding the colleges for those already enrolled, and cutting funding for those not yet enrolled. It is not right to push students to excel in school and then arbitrarily raise tuition after they have started college. The budget balancer does not let me cut welfare, medical, and other social safety net programs the way they should. California covers 250 percent of poverty for many programs. These programs should be pegged at federal poverty levels.The budget balancer does not have a button for fair taxation. Most of our taxes come from the rich. Most people don't know that. I made adjusted gross income of $68000 with an effective state tax rate of 7.6%. We need a tax system that EVERYONE paid their fair share. Balancing the budget is easy. Painful, but easy. Have not even touched on the pension system yet.


Yes, like a true Republican, you funded every special interest close to your heart, and slashed everything else without any consideration towards the effects on society - even if it will hurt you in the long run (like letting out criminals).

What a waste of time this article is.


Tax FOOD - all the illegals will have to actually pay tax then!

Paul R.

Guess I missed the button that said "Cut state legislator pay by half and take away their 'free' cars," along with the "Privatize state prisons" button. I also missed the "Convert ALL state pensions to 401(k) plans now AND in the future" button. Oh, and I'm still looking for the "Freeze state worker pay and institute a hiring freeze for three years" button. Maybe all those buttons are hidden along with the button, named "State legislators grow some stones and make REALLY decisive, long-term cuts to pet programs because it's the right thing to do, even if it's not in their beloved lobbying groups' best interest." As if THAT button will ever see the light of day.


Cut all state salaries above $30K on a sliding scale, 5%-30%. Declare bankruptcy if necessary. Cities, counties and even other states could do the same.
If you divide the $28B deficit by $70K per employee you see that 400,000 State workers must be laid off. Do we want them to march to the Capitol and riot? Do we want even 1% (4,000) going postal? Do we want half of them (200,000) to lose their homes and move into city, county, state and federal buildings where its warm with water and toilets? The prisons and jails are full. Here in the North State you have to know someone and have references to stay in jail.


K-12 funding? Sounds like socialism to me. Cut all the K12 funding, and let parents pay the cost of sending the kids to school.

Mitchell Young

There may not be an 'illegal alien' button, but perhaps given the budget deficit and 12 percent umemployment (as the government reckons it) immigration enthusiasts will finally be called out on the 'immigration is a fiscal boon' , 'immigrants contribute more in taxes than they use in services' , and 'immigration is good of the economy'. After all, California is something above 25% foreign born -- if immigration was so good for the economic and fiscal situations we should be sitting pretty.


The dominoes are beginning to fall into place. Note the attached link to of all places the NY Times : http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/21/business/economy/21bankruptcy.html?src=busln

States will be allowed to file for bankruptcy!

With a Republican congress the States will get a clear path to bankruptcy. If you are a muni or state bond holder dump your investments now. If you are a a retired guvment employee start practicing " hello and welcome to Walmart"

It's a cummin!

The Man

I see you also don't have a 'fire some government workers' button. Does the SEIU own you also?

Markoff Chaney

The thing that's really missing from this is the "End the Afghanistan War" button. Instead of doing that (which in NY state, will completely fill their budget gap and then some), we'll demonize schoolteachers, garbagemen and civil servants. We'll slash pensions, we'll cut schools to the bone, we'll plunder from the people, and we will weaken unions well beyond the point of no return - not just eliminating waste but eliminating the very idea of collective bargaining. The working and middle class of this country will lose out. In the meantime, the Defense budget will remain bloated and defense contractors will continue to be extremely well paid. We'd rather war on our neighbors than end war on people we've never even met.


Cutting education is the most ignorant idea; you are opening a pandora's box.

Dwight Jones

This one works right away, nobody gets hurt.

Allow clear title.

Let anyone buying real estate to convert it to tax-free status for a 20% premium. So a $500,000 house can transact at $600,000 and the government puts $100K against the deficit. Cleans it up real fast.

And their promise to reduce future taxation is built right in, thank you.
Pass it on.


is this supposed to be satire, or is this person really that stupid?


Someone mentioned "ending the war(s)."

An unintended consequence would be the large re-entry of hundreds of thousands of younger men and women into the work force. Two impacts:
1) An increase in the Unemployment Rate, and unemployment compensation
2) A decrease in real wages, as competition for jobs increases


The state of calif is broke.
Debt far exceeds revenue.
Legislature will not cut spending
and people will not vote for tax increase.


This was a really stupid article... can someone with 'sense' give us a better plan?


Ask for our fair share of our federal contribution, we get 79 cents back for every dollar that goes to Washington.While States like Alaska get $ 1.84 plus a oil dividend of about $ 1,300 per citizen, in fact a majority of Republican States receive more than they give see for yourself


Instead of this Stupid article- explain how the 9th largest economy is struggling when they pay more federal taxes and receive less in return for the effort. If there was a list of States that support these idiot Conservative Hippocrates California would be near the top.

If Conservative Business morons in this State want lower taxes then they need look no further then their friends they are supporting with what would be a lower tax rate for them. To top it all off those other States then take that federal subsidy and give their businesses California fair share to lure more business away from here.

Mark R.

I would balance the budget by:

1. Renegotiating city contracts with unions, and hiring more non union employees in certain sectors.

2. End city contracts for custodial type work, and use the labor of a community service sentenced work pool.

3. Reduce welfare to all new families for up to two children, to eliminate abuse, and dependency, with exception of provable hardship cases.

4. Require section 8 holders, and welfare recipients that are unemployed to volunteer time for community services, or attend school or risk loosing benefits.

5. Able bodied General relief recipients should be required to work on city projects like graffiti removal, schools & parks beautification projects.

6. Increase auto registration fees by $10.00, for roads and highways, only.

7. Non profits that hold 3500 status, who is deemed guilty of interfering with the execution of the law, should lose their tax exempt status, or a reduction of it.

8. Mandate e-verify for all companies doing business with the state.

9. Give tax incentives to companies that volunteraly use e-verify.

10. Go after drivers that use cellphones while driving, increase penalty by $150.00.

11. Encourage religious organizations to take on more responsibility in their local communities, for tapping down gangs, drugs, crime, poverty.

12. Increase fees for cars impounded for drunk, suspended, revoked, or fraudulent license holders while driving. Open citywide storage yards to house them.

13. Impound and sell for scape cars, trucks, and utility vehicles that visibly pollutes the air, visible smoke from the tailpipe.

14. Increase fine on rigs that are unsafe.

15. Give incentives to individuals that use public transportation.

16. Increase fees for liquor licenses .

17. Increase penalties for Marijuana dispensaries, that sell it without a prescription, to minors.

18. Home Owner incentives for keeping their curb areas free of debris, which will reduce pressure to city wide sewage systems.

19. Market the state better, as a travel friendly place.

20. Quarterly include the state budget on-line, county by county, and city by city, which will expose wasteful spending, and will make elected officials a little reluctant to partake in it, if they have to explain it to their constituents.



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