Buttering Up California's Budget Director (?) Fighting 'Draconian' Spending Cuts (Now It Makes Sense)

March 29th, 2011 3:50 PM

New York Times reporter Jennifer Medina’s Sunday story from Sacramento focused on the state’s cute political couple, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and his young budget director Ana Matosantos: “Political Odd Couple, United by Crisis In California Budget.”

They are a constant if unlikely pair these days: the oldest man elected governor of California and the woman who is its youngest budget director, shuttling from office to office as they meet with lawmakers, confer quietly in the Capitol hallways and fend off reporters and lobbyists.

Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, lived through another fiscal crisis when he was governor 30 years ago. The budget director, Ana Matosantos, 35, was barely able to do addition back then, but she has the experience that comes with having served under the last governor and through three years of California fiscal crises.

Medina painted Matosantos as a budgetary whiz (who, conveniently, is also opposed to Republican spending cuts):

And now the two of them are at the center of what has become the critical battle in Mr. Brown’s first few months on the job, as he tries to push through a budget that would almost certainly define much of his remaining years here. And for all of Mr. Brown’s knowledge and self-assurance, it is this unlikely budget director -- a Republican appointee -- to whom the governor keeps turning to help him navigate this treacherous terrain....Without hesitating, she explained how the state made up for services that local governments could not afford.

Months later, Bill Emmerson, a Republican state senator, asked for similar information in a private meeting. Ms. Matosantos ticked off the information without looking at any notes, convincing Mr. Emmerson that an inflexible spending cap would not work. A few weeks later, Mr. Emmerson could not remember the details himself. But he was certain that Ms. Matosantos had given them the right guidance.So why would the Times bother to butter up a relatively obscure political figure in the bowels of the California state bureaucracy? Maybe because her pull may help push up state taxes and reduce spending cuts:
While the Legislature has moved forward in approving more than $11 billion in cuts, parallel negotiations to put a tax extension up for a statewide vote have sputtered and stalled. Now Ms. Matosantos is going through marathon meetings with Mr. Brown, as well as painstaking, occasionally painful sessions with Senate Republicans, whose votes are needed to get the tax initiative on a June ballot. Without those taxes, Mr. Brown has said, the cuts to the state’s budget will need to be even more draconian.

Medina even made politically correct points out of Matosantos’s gay relationship.

Ms. Matosantos seems unconcerned about her status as a first in so many categories -- in addition to being the youngest, she is the first Latina and the first openly gay person to hold the job -- and likes to keep her matter-of-fact tone on any topic. “At the end of the day, what matters is the numbers: this all has to add up and make sense.”

(Back in June 2007, Medina fretted that after arrests of illegals immigrants in New Haven, Conn, “any sense of sanctuary that the city and advocates for immigrants had developed over the years was turned upside down, replaced with fear.")