Spending limits? In Sacramento??

During California’s biggest state budget fights, many of which played out in the shadow of monster deficits, lawmakers clashed mightily over this question: Were the state’s problems a result of too little cash or too much spending?

Those who believed it was a cash problem seem to have prevailed. But don’t be surprised if that victory rings a bit hollow before the end of 2017.

The real surprise, though, may be the news that landed last week in Sacramento. As it turns out, there’s an existing spending cap most people had forgotten about.

A report by the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office warned budget expenses may be creeping close to the spending limits enshrined in the California Constitution in 1979, and loosened 11 years later to accommodate funding for public schools. The resulting cap has almost always been a lot higher than actual spending levels, but the new analysis suggests a growing economy is quietly taking up the remaining space. Brown’s team disputes that conclusion, but don’t be surprised if the issue ends up in court.

For the Legislature’s majority Democrats, the cap issue is likely to linger over budget deliberations in May and June. Most of them were elected in the years since those tense spending cap debates, and could be surprised by what’s in store.

Read the whole story in the LA Times


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