So it was something of a moment when a jaunty Gov. Jerry Brown strode before cameras here on Thursday to present his budget for 2013-14.
“The deficit is gone,” Mr. Brown proclaimed, standing in front of an array of that-was-then and this-is-now charts that illustrated what he said were dramatic changes in California’s fortunes.
“For the next four years we are talking about a balanced budget,” he said. “We are talking about living within our means. This is new. This is a breakthrough.”
Mr. Brown was not just talking about a balanced budget. He projected that the state would begin posting surpluses starting next year, leading to a projected surplus of $21.5 million by 2014, a dramatic turnaround from the deficit of $26 billion — billion, not million — he faced when he was elected in 2010.
The change in fortunes reflected cuts that were imposed over the past two years, a temporary tax surcharge approved by voters in November that expires in seven years, and a general improvement in the state’s economy.
Mr. Brown’s news was hailed on both sides of the political aisle. “This is a proposal that clearly shows California has turned the corner,” said John A. Pérez, a Democrat who is the State Assembly’s speaker.
Connie Conway, the Assembly’s Republican leader, said it was “good news for taxpayers that the state has made progress in getting our financial house in order.”
Two years ago Kansas embarked on a remarkable fiscal experiment: It sharply slashed income taxes without any clear idea of what would replace the lost revenue. “Look out, Texas,” proclaimed Gov. Sam Brownback.
But Kansas isn’t booming — in fact, its economy is lagging both neighboring states and America as a whole. Meanwhile, the state’s budget has plunged deep into deficit, provoking a Moody’s downgrade of its debt.
There’s an important lesson here — but it’s not what you think. Yes, the Kansas debacle shows that tax cuts don’t have magical powers, but we already knew that. The real lesson from Kansas is the enduring power of bad ideas, as long as those ideas serve the interests of the right people.
If Rauner wins, I give him one term.