Gatto warns of trigger cuts

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) told local educators this week to prepare for mid-year budget cuts that will be automatically triggered in December if state revenues fall more than $4 billion below projections.

“If I had to predict, I would say the trigger cuts probably are pulled,” Gatto said during a community forum Monday at the Buena Vista Library in Burbank.

Gov. Jerry Brown has told lawmakers that he would veto any proposal that sought to work around the budget triggers, Gatto added.

“He believes that the public needs to feel the pain of the state budget cuts to really believe that they are serious,” Gatto said, adding that Brown feels it could take exactly that for voters to demand change from their representatives.

The mid-year cuts would further reduce K-12 funding by $1.5 billion, or about $260 per student.

It was grim news for school officials and parents who have watched their budgets shrink and their class sizes grow since the onset of the economic downturn in 2008. And they didn’t hide their frustration from the freshman lawmaker.

“We are talking about people’s livelihoods, and we cut seven days off of their work year,” said Burbank Unified school board member Dave Kemp, referring to staff furlough days. “That is going to put a lot of people under. For it to become our responsibility at the local level to have to negotiate and try to figure out how we are going to do this, it puts us in a very tenuous position.”

Glendale Unified has faced the same issue, locking horns with its teachers union over unpaid work furlough days, mainly because the district wants to keep them as a future option should education funding take another hit.

Gatto told his audience that he was disturbed by the state’s flawed tax system, and the lack of funding for public education. General Fund spending in the state has shrunk to $80 billion this year, from about $132 billion four years ago, he noted.

“Pretty much everybody is dissatisfied with funding levels and nobody feels like they are getting enough,” Gatto said. “Our job during these tough times is to make the decisions of what we are going to do with our scant resources and how we are going to plan things so these types of situations don’t reoccur in the future.”

He and other lawmakers are focused on making sure that the lessons learned during the current budget crisis are not forgotten, Gatto said, including reforming how corporations are taxed in the state, which could bring in additional dollars.

“I do not want my successor to be talking to the next generation of parents six years from now, and be talking about the same problems that we are [discussing] here tonight,” Gatto said. “I would like there to be some glimmer of hope for the things we determine to be important.”

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