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Budget gimmicks explained: 5 ways states hide deficits

Last week, California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a budget that he said was filled with gimmicks — or as he put it, “legally questionable maneuvers, costly borrowing and unrealistic savings.” Editorial boards have praised Brown for exercising responsible fiscal judgment. Meanwhile, Brian Joseph of the Orange County Register has written that Brown’s own budget plan uses gimmicks, too.

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Debt reduction is next fiscal hurdle (access required)

After policymakers borrowed heavily to keep government afloat amid a festering fiscal crisis that blew holes in the state’s budget for four years, a former Senate president tried to put into place a mechanism to rein in politicians’ appetite for debt-financing.

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Policy in the budget — by the bills (access required)

As amended, the bill allows AHCCCS to adopt rules necessary to implement a program given available funds, providing the agency the ability to make changes to its services, eligibility and rates. Also, the bill contains an intent clause for certain transplant services that were eliminated last year to be funded, and a “notwithstanding” language that the Governor’s Office says gives the agency broad leeway to restore the services.

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A balanced budget… for now: Threat of lawsuits could undo spending cuts (access required)

Fiscally conservative Republicans won the argument when the governor agreed to forego borrowing and other budget gimmicks to help shore up the state’s sagging revenues, and the budget-slashing proposal was also a vindication for legislators who saw themselves as lone voices in the wilderness, warning for many years that politicians’ appetite for spending would one day come back to haunt them.

But a bigger, perhaps more critical fight looms.

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K-12 schools bracing for cuts (access required)

The cuts public schools will face next year are smaller than Senate Republicans initially proposed, but probably aren’t small enough to prevent teacher layoffs and school closings, according to some school officials.

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