Newsom’s Exit Strategy?

I’ve been trying to understand why Governor Newsom has proposed such a reckless budget. The only answer I can come up with is that he hopes to escape California before the consequences of that budget are suffered by being appointed to President Biden’s Cabinet should Mr. Biden be re-elected in November. It wouldn’t be the first time a California governor resigned to go to Washington and Mr. Newsom has been a loyal soldier in Mr. Biden’s re-election campaign.

Whatever the reason, Mr. Newsom’s budget is unprecedented in its recklessness. Even though California is not in a recession, he proposes to close a budget deficit caused primarily by excessive spending during his tenure — General Fund expenditures per $100 of Personal Income this year are more than 30 percent higher than Governor Jerry Brown’s last year of office — by drawing on budget reserves, borrowing money, shifting funds and deferring spending, which are desperate choices normally taken only during recessions. Those choices might be in his short term political interest but they are not in the interest of Californians, who would be left nakedly exposed to the next recession.

It’s not too late for Mr. Newsom to do the right thing when he issues the May Revision to his budget proposal. Whether he does or not, other elected officials must demand a budget that reduces spending — especially patronage spending, some of which has been recycled into political donations that Mr. Newsom has used to raise his profile — and preserves reserves and other tools that lawmakers will need in the next recession.