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Brown's $91-billion budget a huge blow to courts, social services

 

Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled a $91-billion budget proposal Monday that reflects a steadily worsening fiscal picture for California. It freezes construction of new courthouses, sharply cuts health and welfare spending and reduces state payrolls by 5%.

About the only positive note is an expected Facebook initial public offering that should kick $1.5 billion in tax revenues into the state's coffers by June 2013.

Brown had announced Saturday that the state's deficit had grown to $16 billion, nearly twice what he had projected in January. The gap grew because he overestimated tax revenues by $4.3 billion, and the federal government and courts blocked $1.7 billion in cuts that the state wanted to make.

The remainder reflects an increase in the amount of money the state is mandated to spend on education.

To close the wider gap, Brown is proposing $1.2 billion in cuts to Medi-Cal. He also wants to slash payments to people who care for the disabled by 7% and reduce the state payroll through a shorter workweek or wage concessions.

He also is proposing another $500 million in cuts to the state's struggling court system, including a one-year freeze on all new construction projects to replace dilapidated courthouses.

California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye called for an emergency meeting Monday of judicial leaders to determine how the courts should respond.

“The proposed cuts to the judicial branch are both devastating and disheartening,” Cantil-Sakauye said. “They will seriously compromise the public’s access to their courts and our ability to provide equal access to justice throughout the state.”

The service reductions are expected to be harsher if voters in November reject Brown's proposed combination of a sales tax hike and increased levies on high earners.

The governor presumes that $8.5 billion of the state's $16-billion deficit will be filled by his tax measure. If it fails, he would automatically cut another $5.5 billion from public schools and end such popular programs as lifeguards at state beaches.

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Playoffs, Dodgers and bike race set stage for weekend gridlock

With the state's swelling deficit, what should be first on the chopping block?

-- Nicholas Riccardi in Sacramento

 
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