SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday proposed slashing programs for the poor and offered voters a stark choice: Approve new taxes, or I'll do the same to schools.

Saying the state faces "a day of reckoning," Brown unveiled a revised budget that depends on passage of a November measure increasing income taxes for the wealthy and sales taxes for everyone.

"Cutting alone really doesn't do it," Brown said. "That's why I'm looking at serious budget reductions, real increased austerity, with a plea to voters: Please increase taxes temporarily."

Stuck with a $15.7 billion deficit, $6.5 billion more than projected in January, Brown called on the Legislature to make more massive cuts for the 2012-13 fiscal year. His proposed $8.3 billion in reductions hits hard at social service programs.

Brown has indicated for months that he believes the best path to gaining public support in November is to provide as dire a picture of the state's fiscal health as he can.

Critics have accused him of using a "Washington Monument strategy," in which threats of cutting popular programs such as schools will force voters to support his tax measure. The term stems from the early 1970s, when President Richard Nixon's national parks director sparked outrage by threatening to close the monument to tourists.

State Senate Republican leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, speaking to reporters in a state Capitol corridor just after Brown's news conference Monday morning, said to make a real cut in California's spending, he "would cut the Democratic majority in the Legislature."

He said the state is so overloaded with obligations and deferred payments from past years that, even with revenues on the rise, they simply can't rise fast enough to keep up with spending. "You can't tax your way to prosperity," Huff said.

'A perfect storm'

Recent polls have shown only a slight majority of voters have expressed approval of the new taxes. But many Democrats in the Legislature believe that Californians have felt enough pain over the past several years.

"I have a sense this is a perfect storm for passing (the tax hikes) and everyone begins to realize we can't go much further down this path," said Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, the Senate budget chairman.

Brown's measure calls for a five-year increase in income taxes for those making $250,000 or more per year, as well as a four-year, quarter-cent hike in the state's sales tax.

In his revised budget, Brown also proposed cuts to hospitals and nursing homes to reduce Medi-Cal costs; barring colleges and universities that can't meet minimum performance standards from taking part in the Cal Grant program; reducing state workers' pay by 5 percent through contract renegotiations; and using assets that used to belong to local redevelopment agencies.

K-12 schools and community colleges would be hit hardest if the tax proposal fails at the ballot, a $5.5 billion plunge that would drop their funding to $48.2 billion. In the current fiscal year, schools, which get about 40 percent of the state's general-fund revenues, received $47 billion.

"I'm counting on the voters to say yes because I know voters don't want to cut schools," Brown said. "I know they don't want to cut law enforcement."

Brown's budget proposes $91.4 billion in general-fund spending for 2012-13, an increase of nearly $5 billion over 2011-12. But "costs are growing greater" than incoming revenues, said Ana Matosantos, the state's finance director.

Still, some of Brown's solutions to the revenue crunch raised eyebrows. In a surprisingly sharp rebuke, Attorney General Kamala Harris criticized the administration for proposing to siphon $410 million from the state's mortgage relief settlement to put into the general fund.

"The state Department of Justice stood firm for over a year against the nation's largest banks on behalf of California homeowners harmed by the foreclosure crisis," Harris said. "While the state is undeniably facing a difficult budget gap, these funds should be used to help Californians stay in their homes."

Schools' pain

If Brown's proposed taxes are not approved by voters, schools would face $2.9 billion in cuts to programs, forcing schools to close for up to 15 days. An additional $2.6 billion that would have been used to pay back previous years' deferrals to schools would be withheld from schools.

"It would just be devastating to education," warned Sherry Whitmarsh, president of the Mt. Diablo school district board. "I think we'll see a lot more school districts going into bankruptcy."

The University of California and California State University systems would also be facing $250 million each in cuts if the tax measure goes down.

In some cases, cuts to California's safety-net programs wouldn't be as drastic as the cuts Brown sought in January.

Proposed cuts to the state's welfare-to-work program, CalWORKs, were reduced from $990 million to $879.9 million. In-Home Supportive Services, a program enabling elderly and disabled people to avoid more costly care in institutions, would see a 7 percent across-the-board reduction in workers' hours, down from 20 percent -- mainly because courts refused to allow the larger cuts.

The largest of the human services cuts, a proposed $1.2 billion reduction in state Medi-Cal funding, would alter the way hospitals and nursing homes are reimbursed.

Sara Gonzales, a former San Jose warehouse manager who is caring for her 6-year-old grandson, worries about the steadily decreasing funding for CalWORKs. She now receives $516 a month and has access to transportation vouchers, computers, child care and even clothes for job interviews.

Gonzales said she fears she is among the last Californians to benefit from a good "workfare" program. "The people behind me, what are they going to do?" she asked. "It's just going to be a rippling effect; so many people are going to become so poor."

The California court system, which has already lost more than $600 million in funding over the past four years, would take an additional $544 million hit under the governor's plan.

The state Judicial Council, the policy arm of the court system, is set to hold an emergency meeting Thursday to consider the fallout. The council already has scrapped a multibillion-dollar tech project to save money and last year tapped into a courthouse construction fund to pay for court operations.

In a statement, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye called the latest proposed cuts "both devastating and disheartening."

State parks' plight

The budget did not change Brown's plan to close up to 70 state parks by July 1. In an interview Monday, state Resources Secretary John Laird said the plan is still on track, despite recent push-back by Democratic leaders in Sacramento.

As of Monday, 16 state parks have been saved because of donations from private groups or local governments, he said. And as many as 20 more might also be saved, depending on how much other funding comes in from outside sources. "We're doing our best to stretch and raise the money, and keep half of them open," Laird said.

The possibility of twin cuts to the universities in January could mean higher tuition and fewer classes, said Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the nonprofit Campaign for College Opportunity, and the proposed budget fails to help the schools recover from massive cuts over the past few years. "It makes it clear that there's still a lot of unpredictability," she said.

Asserting that he can't "redesign reality," Brown said he did not take any pleasure ordering cuts that will affect the most vulnerable, but he said it must be done to "right the ship of state."

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and other Democrats signaled that they will seek alternative ways to fill the budget gap than to have most of it fall on the shoulders of the poor.

"We are not looking for a big public fight, but we will work assertively with the governor and the Assembly to find some alternatives to the most egregious cuts," Steinberg said. "Our eye must be on November, for as difficult as this gap is, we must win the election."

Staff writers Howard Mintz, Paul Rogers, Katy Murphy, Matt Krupnick and Theresa Harrington contributed to this report.