California missed the mark again in September by collecting $301.6 million less in revenue than state leaders expected when they approved this year's budget, according to Controller John Chiang.
The $301.6 million is 4 percent below what had been expected for September. It represents nearly all of the $310 million that state leaders counted on for the month when they closed the budget with an expectation the state would receive $4 billion more over the course of 2011-12.
That $4 billion bump has attracted plenty of skepticism. Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic lawmakers have defended the optimistic assumption by pointing to as much as $2.5 billion in cuts to schools and social services they prescribed in case the money never materializes.
For the first three months of the fiscal year, from July to September, California is now $705.5 million, or 3.6 percent, behind what state leaders expected by this point.
"For better or worse, the potential for revenue shortfalls is precisely why the Governor and Legislature included trigger cuts in this year's State spending plan," Chiang said in a statement. "September's revenues alone do not guarantee that triggers will be pulled. But as the largest revenue month before December, these numbers do not paint a hopeful picture."
Officials at the Department of Finance and Legislative Analyst's Office, whose projections will determine whether the state imposes those $2.5 billion in cuts, have warned against putting too much stock in the monthly revenue totals. They say it is possible that the bulk of the $4 billion bump may not come until next spring, and that Finance's method of assigning portions of the $4 billion to each month may not have accurately captured that possibility.
But education groups and social service advocates have grown concerned that the state is heading straight for "trigger" cuts that they had hoped to avoid. In the final month of session, Service Employees International Union pushed for a change in the budget "trigger" language that would have required the Brown administration to consult with lawmakers on alternatives to those cuts. Brown vetoed that bill.