"I don't see legislators getting out of line in the first year, but in year two we'll see where things are when we still have services at funding levels of six to eight years ago," said Ben Tulchin, a Democratic strategist.
With Democrats in full control, he said, "I have a hard time believing advocates will sit there quietly."
And then there are the skeptical voices of financial experts, warning that the budget problems are far from solved.
Mike Genest, a finance director in the Schwarzenegger administration, cautioned that Brown's budget estimates in future years may be too rosy, so "it wouldn't take very much to throw it out of whack." For instance, he said, the administration forecasts revenue to surge 11 percent in 2014 -- twice the average rate of growth. And, Genest added, long-term costs -- pensions, Medi-Cal and retiree health care -- are expected to grow much faster than revenues.
But Deputy Legislative Analyst Jason Sisney said his office in May forecast "multibillion-dollar operating surpluses" in a few years if the economic recovery continues and the state can keep spending down. An updated projection is expected later this month.
Brown also has plenty of land mines to maneuver around in policy areas.
Roiling water politics have taken down the best-intended politicians. And changing regulatory laws will pit him against his own party and constituents who are fearful of setbacks in environmental, health and worker protections. Brown, too, will have to approach school reforms with extreme caution, given how critical the teachers union, the California Teachers Association, is to his successes.
When asked how he would contend with an emboldened Legislature, Brown evoked the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis, where the imprisoned slave predicted to the Pharaoh there would be seven years of plenty and seven years of famine, so that he should save when there's plenty.
"If you look back, we've had periods where money flows in and periods when there's not enough money," Brown said. "We need the prudence of Joseph going forward over the next seven years, and I intend to make sure that's the story that we look to for our guidance."
Contact Steven Harmon at 916-441-2101. Follow him at Twitter.com/ssharmon. Read the Political Blotter at IBAbuzz.com/politics.
After voters agreed to a tax hike and elected a two-thirds Democratic majority in the Legislature, Brown has laid out a bold agenda for the next two years:
High-speed rail: With President Barack Obama's re-election, Brown expressed hope in stepping up construction of the first stages of the $69 billion bullet train. Water: Brown hopes to work with environmentalists, Southern California farming interests and others to start construction of two massive water tunnels in the Central Valley that would ease water distribution and strengthen conservation efforts. Education: The governor wants to change evaluation and testing standards, as well as recalibrate the role of teachers, principals, school districts and the state "to give maximum but thoughtful authority to the lowest level." Regulations: Brown wants to ease regulatory burdens on businesses "where it's retarding investment in job creation," though he's mindful of the effects regulation changes would have on public health, the environment and working conditions.
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