Wanted: Budget Scrooge


If there are going to be additional budget "trigger" cuts next month in California, a budget Scrooge will have to step forward.

A Scrooge who is willing to say that the "triggers" need to be pulled, leading to additional billions in painful mid-year cuts to higher education, schools and other programs.

Of course, the triggers were supposed to be automatic. If revenue projections fell more than $1 billion out of whack, certain cuts would be triggered. If the revenue projections fell more than $2 billion in deficit, a second round of cuts also would be triggered.

But there's a human element that can defeat the formula. Someone has to make the revenue projections. The triggers say that both the non-partisan legislative analyst and the governor's department of finance make projections. The more optiimistic of the two projections is the one that determines whether the triggers must be pulled.

So the question is: who is the Scrooge who will offer an honest projection that would bring forth the triggers?

The leading candidate for Scrooge is the legislative analyst, Mac Taylor, and his office. 

The analyst put out a revenue projection that found the state was $3.7 billion short of projected revenues from the budget, which would trigger the full $2 billion in trigger cuts. But the legislative analyst can only be Scrooge if the department follows up with a much more optimistic revenue projection.

If the department of finance is so optimistic that the triggers aren't pulled, a different Scrooge could emerge to question those numbers and demand trigger cuts. Perhaps some Republican legislator. Or Democratic fiscal expert. Such a person would be buying political grief -- but also a ton of press attention as the person who demanded cuts before Christmas.

Happy holidays to all you potential Scrooges out there. God bless you, every one.

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