Skelton: Legislative analyst hits Newsom over big spending
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s massive state budget proposal he bragged about across California is taking a hard hit from Sacramento’s neutral arbiter.
Every competition needs an unbiased reference. And that role is performed on State Capitol by the Office of the Non-partisan Legislative Analyst. No player is spared, including the mighty governor and pander.
The analyst does not have the final say on anything. It is the prerogative of the elect. But the bureau’s judgment on dollar amounts and preferred policy is highly respected and rarely attacked, at least publicly. Nobody takes political pot shots.
The analyst is appointed by the legislature, but his allegiance is to the facts and to the truth. It is a source of privileged information that the public can fully trust.
Gabriel Petek, who was previously Standard & Poor’s senior analyst for California, currently heads the Office of the Legislative Analyst. He has several MPs who are delegated to ignore the politicians’ turn and make it clear.
Ann Hollingshead, senior budget and policy analyst, explored Newsom’s revised spending plan of nearly $ 268 billion for the next fiscal year – a 33% increase from the current budget passed last June – and released a critical report.
- The massive $ 76 billion “surplus” projected by Newsom is in fact only half that amount. The other half is legally restricted and must be spent on schools, saving or paying off debt.
- Despite a record tax windfall, Newsom still relies on $ 12 billion in savings and loans to increase spending. “Short-sighted and not recommended,” Hollingshead called.
- The legislature should delay approving all the money the governor wants to spend until it has time to think it over. He must plan the best way to distribute the dollars efficiently and not rush the bureaucracy into unnecessary expenses.
The analyst did not mention the word “recall”. But if the Legislature followed his advice, not all the money would flow into the California economy – and voters’ pockets – before a slated fall election sought by Republicans trying to oust the Democratic governor. .
Thus, Newsom would not reap the maximum political benefits from Sacramento’s spending spree.
Meanwhile, both sides – Newsom and his opposition – are using the revised budget as political ammunition.
The governor’s campaign runs an internet ad touting the budget, stating that “Gov. Gavin Newsom is making California roar ”- echoing what he has repeatedly proclaimed throughout the past week, from top to bottom in the state.
“Newsom delivers you money in your pocket,” the ad exclaims. “And a free pre-K for every Californian kid…. Gov. Newsom is just getting started. “
This should dispel any naïve idea that politics are not a major consideration in shaping the governor’s budget.
Simultaneously, Republican recall activist Carl DeMaio of San Diego is using the “shameful” ad to raise money for a counter.
“Newsom is now trying to bribe voters with their own money,” DeMaio says in an emailed fundraising pitch.
It’s a bit ugly.
But Newsom thrives on hyperbole and is obsessed, as I wrote before, with being the first and the best. He’s a swagger – even more so than most politicians.
“This is a generational budget – a historic budget,” Newsom repeatedly said in its week-long rollout of the proposal. “This is unprecedented in the history of America.”
By comparison, the Office of the Legislative Analyst is refreshingly sweet.
The conflict over the size of the surplus concerns semantics, not mathematics.
I asked Hollingshead: what difference does it make to the way restricted money is portrayed?
“No practical difference,” she said. “That’s pretty much how the budget is characterized and understood.”
There is $ 38 billion in discretionary play money and an additional $ 38 billion restricted. And that’s what it should be called: limited money, no surplus.
More problematic is the use of savings and loans to help finance a budget that clearly does not need the money. Now is the time to save money, not spend it – and borrow zilch.
“Despite a historic surge in revenues, the governor continues to use nearly $ 12 billion in budgetary tools – withdrawals from reserves and borrowing – to increase spending,” says the analyst’s report.
“Using tools designed for a fiscal crisis to support government spending at this time is unpredictable and inadvisable. The state will need these tools to meet future challenges when federal aid may not be as great. “
The surplus does not include $ 27 billion in federal stimulus funds earmarked for Sacramento.
“We urge the Legislature not to back down from its track record of prudent fiscal management,” the analyst’s office wrote.
In truth, this caution was imposed on the Legislature by former Governor Jerry Brown, a fiscal skinflint compared to Liberal Newsom.
HD Palmer, the governor’s budget spokesperson, said Newsom had offered to save $ 24 billion in various budget reserves.
“At the same time,” he adds, justifying the expenditure, “the state has not only immediate needs, but well-defined infrastructure needs. We believe that [budget] the revision strikes a fair balance. “
The Office of the Legislative Analyst has also recommended deferring certain expenses for up to two years.
“This is an extraordinary amount of funding,” the analyst wrote. The “capacity of the bureaucracy to allocate this funding in a timely and efficient manner is likely to be severely limited…. In addition, [the] The capacity of ministries to oversee this new spending will likely be limited….
“Delaying some spending decisions would give the legislature more time to determine what solutions would work best and develop a detailed plan.”
What a concept: think, plan, spend effectively.
In Capitol State, the office of the legislative analyst is not only the arbiter, but also the MVP.