Governor Jerry Brown unveiled a record $113.3-billion spending proposal Friday, pleasing a lot of folks who have suffered through budget cuts in recent years but frustrating other worthy candidates.
The increase in General Fund spending over the year before comes courtesy of a booming stock market, a steadying economy, adjusted tax policy and some tough calls on expenditures. The budget also includes an additional $45.5 billion from dedicated special funds and $5.9 billion from bonds.
As Brown pointed out in his inaugural/state-of-the-state speech last week, California has gone from a $26-billion budget deficit to a balanced budget in four years. The budget is, however, precariously perched upon the razor’s edge of a volatile world economy, escalating climate change, and ill political and social winds.
The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Officer will prepare an analysis of the proposal while budget hearings begin, prior to release of the governor’s revised budget in May. After that, the Legislature gives the budget a final going over before sending it to Brown. He can line-item veto individual provisions before deciding whether to approve it.
Here are eight areas that might come under further scrutiny:
Infrastructure—The state Department of Finance estimates that the state needs to spend $66 billion on its roads, universities, parks, prisons, hospitals and other infrastructure, but the budget only earmarks $478 million this year. “We do have a need and we’re going to have to take care of it,” Brown said at a press conference. Just not now. KPCC
Poverty—Community advocates gathered in Fresno on Friday when Brown announced his budget to protest a lack of programs for seniors, the disabled, children, working-class families and others less fortunate. “The reason why we have this surplus in the first place is because since 2008, $15 billion was taken out of health and human service programs,” Rose Auguste, an organizer for Health Access, told the Fresno Bee.
Health care for undocumented immigrants—“There’s not a lot of money left in the budget” to cover health insurance costs of undocumented immigrants, Brown said. So there is no money for providing Medi-Cal to them. The California Report
Higher education—Brown proposed a 4% increase ($120 million) for the University of California as long as UC does not raise tuition. UC President Janet Napolitano said before that wouldn’t be enough to prevent a tuition boost of 5% a year for the next five years. She wanted another $100 million. Los Angeles Times
Courts—California court budgets were slashed about $1.1 billion during the economic downturn, forcing courthouses to close, fees to rise and services to be slashed. Brown threw an extra $180 million at them this year. Although Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye expressed satisfaction with this year’s budget, she said last year that it would take $266 million for the judiciary to “tread water.” San Jose Mercury News
Prisons—The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation would get a 1.7% boost, to $10.3 billion, despite a shrinking prison population. It will need every extra penny and more as the federal courts continue to demand that California get down to 137.5% of capacity, stop abusing mentally ill patients and treat everyone more humanely. Associated Press
Parks—The troubledDepartment of Parks and Recreation received a modest increase in funding to maintain existing services and deferred maintenance but Elizabeth Goldstein at the California State Parks Foundation, parsing her praise carefully, ruefully noted, “It remains a drop in the bucket toward a backlog estimated at more than $1.3 billion, [but] like a parched California during a statewide drought, we eagerly welcome those essential drops in the bucket. Especially since last year’s proposal for $40 million for deferred maintenance needs was never enacted, this proposed $20 million is critical.” Yuba Net
Long-term liabilities—There were few short-term accommodations in the budget plan for the estimated hundreds of billions owed for pensions, retiree health care, Obamacare obligations, the costs of an aging population and bonded debt. Brown said in his inaugural speech he would take them “one at a time” and this year he would try to have state workers start paying for their retiree health benefits before they retire. Los Angeles Times