Gov. Brown Returns to Fiscal Mess

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November 14, 2010; Source: NPR | Outgoing governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called a special session of the California state legislature to deal with a $25 billion deficit, incorporating $6 billion in deficits that had just popped up in the last month. If you’re the incoming governor, former governor Jerry Brown, what do you do to solve that problem? It won’t be looking to the new Congress for a solution.

Unlike much of the rest of the nation, California stayed in the Democratic column despite its “big government” problem. Former Governor Gray Davis (who was Brown’s chief of staff during Brown’s original run in the Capitol) advised his former colleague to “level with the voters” that there is simply “less money to spend.” The Governor may have to level with the nonprofit sector as well, particularly as it has been the beneficiary of several Obama Administration initiatives, notably the various “green” projects that were promoted by the President’s “green jobs czar,” Van Jones from the California-based Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

California also competes with Michigan, Nevada, and Florida for bottom of the barrel numbers in unemployment and mortgage foreclosures. A newly minted conservative Congress might be less than excited about providing the kind of resources needed for recovery. If it were a country, California would be one of the 10 top economies in the world; it accounts for 13 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. In terms of philanthropic assets, the same applies: in 2008, California foundations accounted for nearly 15 percent of “qualified distributions” and over 16 percent of the nation’s total foundation assets [PDF]. All indicators seem to point out that the impact on the state’s nonprofits will be pretty horrendous.—Rick Cohen