LOS ANGELES — California Governor Jerry Brown signed a state budget Thursday approved by the legislature that prescribes $15 billion in spending cuts in a bid to alleviate the crisis in the deficit-ridden state.

It was the first time in years that California has adopted its budget on time. Last year, lawmakers passed the budget of the richest and most populated US state in October, three months late.

The sacrifices needed to bridge a $26.6 billion deficit will be very significant this year. Brown's office noted that the cuts meant California's public expenses as a share of the economy were now at their lowest levels since 1972-73.

"This is an honest but painful budget that returns California's General Fund spending to levels unseen since the 1970s," the governor said in a statement.

"We've cut our deficit by $15 billion and achieved financial balance this year. This is a huge step forward."

But he also noted that "California's long-term stability depends on our willingness to continue to pay down debt and live within our means."

The budget is counting on $4 billion in revenue. But if that figure is not meant, "billions of dollars in additional cuts will be triggered to maintain a balanced budget," Brown's office warned.

Brown, who was first California's governor from 1975-1983, said when he took office in January that budget cuts would be "painful" but necessary to revive the western state.

His predecessor, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, introduced several tax measures with which he hoped to cut into the state's colossal deficit, at one point valued at $25 billion but now estimated at some $10 billion.

In 2009, a budget crisis pushed California to the brink of bankruptcy, sending its credit rating plunging and forcing it to pay bills with IOUs.