Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled a state budget today that provides for new spending on schools, health care, social services and environmental programs as California reaps the benefits of an economic turnaround.
The governor touted his spending proposal during a trio of public appearances across the state, including an afternoon news conference in downtown Los Angeles.
TO SEE ASSEMBLYMAN MIKE MORRELL'S RESPONSE TO THE PROPOSED BUDGET, CLICK HERE.
Brown's proposed budget would increase spending on K-12 schools and community colleges, and provide more money to the University of California and California State University systems -- as long as they don't increase student tuition and fees. Colleges would need to come up with more creative budgets that don't depend on rising fees or out-of-state tuition, he said.
"The good news is that we're putting $10 billion into the schools of California after years of drought and cutbacks and pink slips for the teachers, we're finally being able to provide a substantial amount of new money for all the schools of California," Brown said.
The governor also wants the state to pay down its $11 billion debt to school districts and local governments, which have seen funding cuts and payment deferrals in recent years -- causing the agencies to make tough budget choices.
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy said he was "pleased" with the increased education funding included in the governor's budget proposal.
"For all the good news, however, we are still many millions of dollars below the 2008 funding level, when the state budget crisis officially began," Deasy said. "During the past five years, the LAUSD has continued to pay for vital programs with fewer resources, resulting in an ongoing structural deficit.
"We hope that the governor's proposal will enable the LAUSD to nearly eliminate without layoffs the 2014 structural deficit, which stands over $350 million," he said.
Timothy White, chancellor of the Long Beach-based California State University system, also applauded the increased education funding, calling it good news for administrators and students.
"This investment enables us to serve California's future economic growth, and social mobility for our populace, through affordable access to high- quality education and degrees," White said. "The good news for the CSU and its students is that the proposed budget will enable the university to improve existing programs and services, and maintain tuition at the current rate for the fourth consecutive year."
The state would begin issuing refunds to schools in the next fiscal year, and cities and counties the year after, state Department of Finance Director Michael Cohen said.
In all, the state owes around $25 billion in deferred payments and loans that the governor calls "a wall of debt."
Spending in the general fund, which pays for basic state services, would increase 8 percent over this year to $106.8 billion, with most of the hike going to schools, under the governor's proposal.
The proposed budget would also stash $1.6 billion in a reserve fund as a buffer against future economic turmoil.
California is coming out of several rough budget years as the recession and weak recovery buffeted the state's revenue from capital gains taxes.
Capital gains became a large part of the state's income in the 1990s as Californians became wealthier, but annual revenue from the taxes has swung wildly in recent years -- while obligations remained constant, the governor said.
California has about $355 billion in long-term liabilities, including $217.8 billion in unfunded pension costs to retired state employees and $64.6 billion in deferred maintenance, according to data provided by the governor's office.
Lawmakers must pass a spending plan by June 15 so it can be signed into law and enacted by July 1.
Administration officials now expect a $4.2 billion surplus by the end of June as opposed to the $26.6 billion deficit Brown encountered when he took office in 2011.
Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said there are some good points in the budget proposal, but more needs to be done to bolster the state's reserve fund.
"As (Brown) notes, there is a $355 billion mountain of debt that isn't going away," Huff said. "His high-speed rail proposal is a non-starter. Even if his idea to take money from the Cap & Trade fund is legal, which we don't believe it is, businesses throughout the state will be forced to pay for it. That means higher gas costs and fewer jobs for middle-class families.
"Too many people, too many families, are still hurting and looking for work," Huff said. "We need to help California workers find jobs."
-- City News Service