The amount is a matter of debate, but by any measure significant: between $1.2 billion, projected by Gov. Jerry Brown, and $4.4 billion, the estimate of the Legislature’s independent financial analyst. The surplus comes barely three years after the state was facing a deficit of close to $60 billion.
At first glance, the situation should be welcome news in a state overwhelmingly controlled by Democrats, who have spent much of their time slashing programs they support. After last November’s elections, the party has two-thirds majorities in the Assembly and the Senate, relegating Republicans almost completely to the sidelines.
Instead, the surplus has set off a debate about the durability of new revenues, and whether the money should be used to reverse some of the spending cuts or set aside to guard against the inevitable next economic downturn.