SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown urged state lawmakers on Friday to "man up" and cut billions of dollars from state services, as he proposed in his January budget.
With state revenue lagging, delaying those reductions is driving the deficit higher than the $9.2 billion he estimated four months ago, the governor said.
Brown made the comments on a San Francisco radio show while promoting his hoped-for November ballot initiative. The measure would temporarily raise the sales tax and levies on incomes of more than $250,000.
"We're trying to be as prudent as we can," Brown said. "That's why the Legislature has to man up, make the cuts, and get some taxes and we'll make it."
Democratic legislators ignored Brown's request that they cut billions from welfare, Medi-Cal and in-home care for the elderly and disabled by March 1. Other cuts he suggested have been rejected outright, including a proposal to slash financial aid programs for low-income college students by creating higher grade requirements for state scholarship recipients.
This week, lawmakers rejected Brown's plan to cut funding for animal shelters that are used to keep unclaimed pets alive for six days instead of three before they are euthanized.
A spokeswoman for Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said Democrats intend to wait until updated state income figures are available next month before considering deeper cuts in state services.
"It is important to have a clear picture of exactly what we are facing," said spokeswoman Alicia Trost. "Our role is to do the least amount of harm to aid our economic recovery. In past years, Democrats have stepped up and made the cuts needed to balance the budget. This year will be no different."
Brown's "man up" quip was reminiscent of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's dismissal of legislators as "girlie men" for not passing his budget in 2004. The jab angered Democrats and helped poison his relationship with the Legislature.
A spokesman for Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) on Friday was more forgiving of the Democratic governor, dismissing his remark as "vintage Jerry Brown. We've got a good working relationship with the governor. We get that the budget is the priority for his term, and we look forward to working with him once we have a clearer sense of the state's revenue picture."
Brown conceded Friday that he "would not be surprised" if state revenue falls below the projections made by his department of finance earlier this year — all the more reason for the Legislature to act quickly, he said.
"We still have a $9-billion deficit, and it's probably bigger now, " he said.
According to figures from state Controller John Chiang's office, revenue is about $1 billion below what the governor had estimated. April will be pivotal: The final two weeks are typically the highest-grossing days for the state as Californians pay their income taxes.
During his 40-minute interview Friday with KGO-AM Radio host Ronn Owens, Brown said undocumented immigrants play an important role in California's economy.
"If 2 million undocumented people were rounded up tomorrow and put on buses and sent to the foreign countries from which they came, there would be a massive drop in economic activity," the governor said. "They are working, buying things, paying for things …. Most of them are doing a hell of a lot of work."