A three-way win on state budget
SACRAMENTO – Declaring “the economic crisis behind us,” Gov. Jerry Brown and the leaders of the Assembly and the state Senate announced Tuesday they have reached a deal on the state budget that largely fulfills all of their goals for the coming fiscal year.
Under the agreement, Brown is the big winner by achieving his top two priorities: basing the budget on his administration’s revenue projections, not the legislative analyst’s, which were $3.2 billion higher, and enacting a new education funding formula to provide extra money to schools with a high percentage of students who are poor or English learners.
The budget agreement formally announced Tuesday is very similar to the proposal Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled in May, but differs in a few key ways. The agreement:
•Tweaks the governor’s education funding formula to ensure that all schools benefit, while also providing extra money to districts with a high percentage of students who are poor or English learners.
•Increases welfare grants by $50 million (starting in March)
The budget also has a nearly $1.1 billion reserve, provides more funding for trial courts and expands Medi-Cal to 1 million more low-income adults, although the details of the expansion are still being worked out with counties.
The deal was able to accommodate the lawmakers’ spending requests at the governor’s lower revenues because the administration revised its property tax estimates upward by about $300 million, and because the parties agreed to phase in the new spending over the course of fiscal year 2013-14 and beyond.
“This is a real step forward,” said the Democratic governor in a joint Sacramento press conference Tuesday with Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, and Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.
“California is focusing in this budget on improving the health care of the people of our state and improving educational opportunities – that’s the big takeaway – while we’re living within bounds,” Brown said. “That’s not to say there aren’t risks out there, as we take on this new Medi-Cal expansion, and the risk of the economy and how we protect certain expenditures. That part is a given. But by the rules of the road over the last decade, this is not only a balanced budget, but it’s a real step forward.”
Steinberg said this budget agreement is particularly noteworthy in light of the state’s previous budget battles. Just a few years ago, California faced multibillion-dollar deficits, deep cuts to services and protracted budget negotiations. Then voters approved Proposition 25 in 2010, which allows the Legislature to approve a budget on a simple majority vote, and Proposition 30 in 2012, which temporarily raised income and sales taxes, while the economy has modestly rebounded.
“For my part, I reflect upon the last four years and just how far California has come,” the Senate leader said. “I stood here in 2009 as the new leader of the state Senate staring down the barrel of a $42 billion deficit. We stand here today and the budget is in black, balanced and better prepared to weather the storms ahead.”
Said Pérez: “This is a tremendous accomplishment for the people of California, and I’m proud of the work that we’ve done.”
Republicans played no role in shaping this budget because Democrats enjoy a two-thirds supermajority in both houses of the Legislature and budgets now only need a simple majority. Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway of Tulare said in a prepared statement, “It’s disappointing that Republicans had no input” in the process, but said she was heartened that “Democrats agreed to use the Governor’s more conservative revenue projections instead of counting on money that may never materialize.”
Both houses of the Legislature are expected to vote on the budget package Friday.
$ell SmArt… with Art!