California’s budget situation is a classic case of good news, bad news for Gov. Jerry Brown. The good news: Tax revenues have come in more than $1 billion above projections through the end of October. The bad news: Revenues have come in more than $1 billion above projections.

If that doesn’t make much sense you, you’re forgiven. But the Department of Finance’s recent announcement was like a train whistle in the distance, a signal of something coming up — fast. (The whistle only got louder when the Legislative Analyst’s Office predicted that the revenues would ultimately exceed projections by $2 billion.)

As you probably know, California has struggled with perpetual budget shortfalls for years. That’s why this is good news for the governor: He’s succeeding in giving the state some stability.

But the windfall is a double-edged sword — and the reason has to do with why California has had budget problems to begin with. You see, members of the governor’s own party are constantly agitating for more state spending, particularly in social services. In the past, when the state has found itself with extra revenues, the Democrats who control the State Capitol have moved to spend it, immediately.

That’s why this is bad news for the governor: If he wants to keep his promises and hold the line on state spending, then he’s going to have to go toe to toe with fellow Democrats. Brown is going to have to tell his closest colleagues no.

For many politicians, this isn’t exactly their idea of a good time, but Brown seems to be built a little differently. He has a long history of battling Democrats in the Legislature and almost seems to enjoy the fight. He’s surely ready for what’s to come in January, when he releases his first budget proposal for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. Democrats have been quietly grumbling about the state’s lean spending practices for a while now and with the state appearing to be more solid footing now, the grumbles are sure to get louder.

A fight is brewing. It’s just a question of how big it will be. In the meantime, expect the governor to talk a lot about fiscal responsibility over the next several weeks.

Quick News Hits

• Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez announced she plans to introduce legislation that would double the pay of employees who have to work on Thanksgiving or Christmas. (Sacramento Bee)

• Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins has made it clear she’s ready to fight over UC tuition increases. (L.A. Times)

• Atkins announced the members of her leadership team, and the chairs of the Assembly committees. Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego gets the plumb job of Assembly Budget Committee chairwoman. (Sacramento Bee)

• The 2015-16 Legislature was sworn into office on Monday. (Sacramento Bee)

• The Orange County Employee Association will host a hot dog picnic on the Capitol’s north lawn to celebrate Gov. Jerry Brown inauguration next month. (Sacramento Bee)

• The order of candidates on the ballot may have cost an incumbent assemblyman his seat. (Sacramento Bee)

• Thirty-nine employees of the state Senate will be laid off at the end of the year. (L.A. Times)

• Meet the state Senate’s new chief sergeant at arms. (L.A.  Times)

• An exit interview with state Sen. Darrell Steinberg, the former Senate Leader. (Sacramento Bee)

What’s Next?

Prediction: Look forward to some serious inter-party squabbling over budget projections. The battle over how that money is spent — or not spent — will take all the air out of the Capitol for the first several months of 2015.

Brian Joseph

Brian Joesph is a Voice of San Diego contributor. He has covered the state capitol for more than seven years. You can reach him at

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