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Schools Get A Boost, 'Wall Of Debt' Persists

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Brown says more cuts needed if taxes aren’t extended

By Chris Levister –

Despite an unexpected surge in state revenue from a recovering economy, Gov. Jerry Brown reframed his call for tax extensions Monday, saying they are still necessary to help the state whittle down an accumulated ‘wall of debt’.

The Democratic governor announced that California can count on $6.6 billion in surprise tax revenues through June 2012, thanks to more money flowing into state coffers this year and a higher growth expectation for next year. The deficit has shrunk to $9.6 billion against a current $91.6 billion spending plan thanks to earlier cuts in health and welfare and the new cash.

But Brown still wants to maintain a higher tax rate on sales and vehicles, as well as a smaller income tax credit for dependents over five additional years. The governor also wants to reinstate a 0.25 percent income-tax surcharge in 2012 for four years, while eliminating it for 2011. Brown wants all subject to voter approval "as soon as possible."

Schools, which had been bracing for doomsday cuts, now stand to gain $3 billion more than they are getting this year.

The California Teachers Association reacted to the boost saying the $3 billion in education funding is a drop in the bucket compared to the $20 billion that has been cut over the last three years. The budget calls for a $17 billion cut, instead of the $25 billion that would come from an “all-cuts” budget, the CTA said.

Hundreds of teachers, parents and students rallied in the Inland Empire and across the state on Friday to protest budget cuts.

The protests which lead to the arrest of several participants was part of a weeklong series of events around the state intended to draw attention to education funding.

Brown said even more revenue is needed to reduce debt the state accumulated in recent years due to borrowing and accounting tricks.

"We've got to pay our bills on time," Brown said. "It's not a good example for the state itself to be a scofflaw or to be always kind of cadging from local government or schools or charter schools.”

Republicans, however, said the state's improving outlook shows that the governor's tax package is no longer needed.

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