Sobered by the reality of a budget deficit, the governor has proposed cutting money for climate programs. It was surely a hard choice, but practical. Something has to go and there’s no better place to show spending discipline than by holding back funds dedicated to a political fantasy.
After years of producing surpluses, including a record $97 billion overcharge to taxpayers last year, California’s volatile income tax system has spit out a deficit. By relying on a progressive tax regime that’s overly dependent on capital gains taxes, revenues in California are whipsawed by boom-and-bust cycles, requiring lawmakers to make uncomfortable decisions.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration projects a $22.5-billion deficit for 2023-24 and proposes roughly $297 billion in total spending. It was entirely expected. The fiscal outlook published in November by the Legislative Analyst’s Office predicted “the Legislature would face a budget problem” – a deficit – “of $24 billion in 2023-24,” with more to follow.
The governor’s response, however, was not expected. Who would have thought he’d cut the state’s cherished climate programs, including “investments” in zero-emissions vehicles, by $6 billion?