Gov. Jerry Brown, moving to tamp down expectations for increased spending ahead of his revised budget plan this month, said Monday he is "very wary" of funding new programs and discounted entirely the idea of extending tax increases approved by voters in 2012.
Asked at a news conference about Proposition 30, the sales tax increase he championed, the Democratic governor said, "That's a temporary tax and, to the extent that I have anything to do with it, will remain temporary."
Brown's remarks came after the San Francisco Chronicle reported over the weekend that state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, had suggested the possibility of an extension.
Brown in January proposed a $154.9 billion spending plan that includes modest increases for social service programs, but also billions of dollars to address long-term debt. As he prepares to revise his budget proposal this month, social service advocates and some Democrats are pressing him to expand spending in some areas, including for pre-kindergarten education.
"I'm going to err on the side of prudence and a sense of the past, which has, you know, taken two governors down to a very low level of popularity because they spent too much money too soon," Brown said at a news conference to mark Wildfire Awareness Week. "We're going to be careful, that's the goal, and I urge my colleagues in the Legislature to look out not just for June or July, but for the next several years. California's fiscal integrity is crucial to investment, to well-being and to the public confidence in their government."
As he has previously, Brown used the state's ongoing drought and expectation of a dismal fire season to frame his budget remarks.
"While there's always new desires and needs that seek validation through new spending, there are old responsibilities, like fighting fires, like fixing up the roads that are deficient," Brown said. "So, we have a lot of challenges just to do what the current set of laws tell us to do, so I'm going to be very wary of any expensive new ideas that people may want to put forward, however worthy they are in themselves."
According to state fire officials, 1,108 wildfires have burned more than 2,500 acres in California from Jan. 1 through late last month, far more than the 697 fires and 1,793 acres burned in the same period last year.
"We are heading into a fire season that may be unprecedented," Natural Resource Secretary John Laird said.
Intense fires in recent years have strained the state's budget for wildfire fighting, but Laird said, "We're ready. Regardless of what's in the budget, there will be money to fight the fires."
Brown said the state "is going to have to spend more money" to fight fires. When asked how much might be required this year, he said he is reviewing the budget now. Brown also urged residents to avoid starting fires in the first place.
"The message is pretty simple," he said. "Be careful, watch it, don't throw cigarette butts out the car window, assuming anybody smokes anymore. And don't do anything else stupid."
PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters at a Wildfire Awareness Week event in McClellan on May 5, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders