Commentary: Brown inherits a nice, big budget deficit from Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger came into the governorship seven years ago on a pledge to end "crazy deficit spending."

As he exits in January, however, he will leave behind a budget deficit that's just as bad, and perhaps even worse, than the one he inherited from predecessor Gray Davis. And regardless of what else he may have accomplished, that will leave an indelible stain on his gubernatorial record.

The Legislature's budget analyst, Mac Taylor, calculates that the sham budget Schwarzenegger and legislators enacted scarcely a month ago – 100 days late, by the way – is already about $6 billion out of whack, largely because its rosy revenue assumptions and its other gimmicks are collapsing.

Furthermore, as the nearly $9 billion per year in temporary taxes that Schwarzenegger and the Legislature imposed last year expire, and as the state's economy continues a slow – at best – recovery from recession, the state is looking at annual shortfalls in the $20 billion range for years to come, Taylor noted.

Jerry Brown, the ex- governor who will succeed Schwarzenegger in January, will be fighting budget wars at least through his first four-year term unless he can create a permanent fix – new taxes and/or big spending cuts – early in his new governorship.

He'll be fighting them mostly with fellow Democrats, because Proposition 25 gives them the power to pass a budget without Republican votes.

Simply put, Democrats now own the budget, and unless they can find a way to raise taxes, or at least retain those soon-to-expire temporary taxes, they'll be the ones who will be cutting money cherished by their political allies, such as public employee unions and welfare and health care recipients.

To read the complete column, visit