By Dan Walters
As Jerry Brown sought the governorship again, 28 years after finishing his first stint, he promised to bring adult supervision to a Capitol that badly needed it, especially in managing the state's roller coaster finances.
Brown inherited a whopping budget deficit from predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had inherited one from Gray Davis after the latter was recalled.
Under both Davis and Schwarzenegger, cyclic upticks in revenue were quickly allocated -- or squandered -- to new spending or tax cuts that, as Brown pointedly observed Tuesday, were then followed by red ink as revenue dipped.
Brown eventually turned to voters for temporary taxes to close the budget gap, and that, coupled with an improving economy, is generating multibillion-dollar surpluses, at least for the moment, that could be just as challenging as deficits.
Brown recounted fiscal history, indirectly criticizing Davis and Schwarzenegger, as he unveiled a revised 2014-15 budget that raises spending a bit, mostly to cover bigger health and welfare caseloads, but generally diverts surpluses into reserves and debt repayment -- including a token amount toward a huge deficit in the teacher retirement fund.
While they've signed on to Brown's proposal for a rainy-day fund to absorb some of the extra money, they and their allies still want more for health, welfare and education services.
Closing the deficit was the first priority of Brown's second governorship, but the politics of prosperity could be just as daunting as the politics of penury.
Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. firstname.lastname@example.org