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California's budget windfall could end soon, officials say

The governor's budget office advises in a report that the surprise $5-billion bump in revenue in January may be an accounting anomaly.

February 18, 2013|By Evan Halper, Los Angeles Times
  • Stacks of U.S. $100 bills.
Stacks of U.S. $100 bills. (Scott Eells )

SACRAMENTO — The surge of revenue that showed up unexpectedly in state coffers last month may well be offset by a revenue dip in coming months, according to Gov. Jerry Brown's administration.

The surprise money has been the source of much speculation in the Capitol. Unanticipated tax receipts filled state coffers with more than $5 billion beyond initial projections for January — more tax dollars than are allocated to the entire state university system in a year.

The revenue bump was historic. But the question for budget experts was whether lawmakers could begin allocating the windfall toward government programs and tax breaks — or whether the money amounted to an accounting anomaly.

Brown's budget office now advises in an official cash report that it is probably the latter. Lawmakers need not do much reading between the lines to understand that the governor does not see the revenue boost as an occasion to pack the budget with extra spending.

The report says the extra money was "likely the result of major tax law changes at the federal and state level having a significant impact in the timing of revenue receipts."

That is: Taxpayers were paying a share of their bill early, getting income off their books in the hope of limiting exposure to the tax hikes that recently kicked in.

The administration was expecting that money to arrive in April. Now, officials are saying it won't, and that just as January's receipts soared, they'll be offset by a spring plunge.

evan.halper@latimes.com

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