January 10, 2013 | Back to: Local News

Rosier outlook for California state budgets

Nevada County’s state representatives offered reaction Thursday to Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal that indicated the state of California is emerging into a more financially positive period.

Brown on Thursday proposed a $97.6 billion general fund budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year that wipes out years of deficits and even includes a modest surplus, while increasing spending by nearly $5 billion.

The additional revenue hiked the spending plan by 5 percent over the current year and helps the governor pour more money into public schools and universities.

The state’s budget shortfall stood at $25 billion when Brown took office two years ago.

“California today is poised to achieve something that has eluded us for more than a decade — a budget that lives within its means, now and for many years to come,” Brown said during a news conference at the Capitol.

Prior to the budget conference, Brown used his personal Twitter account to relay the following message:

“Fiscal discipline is not the enemy of democratic governance, but rather its fundamental predicate.”

In other words, fiscal discipline is the basis for democracy, not its opponent.

Assemblyman Brian Dahle joined other Republicans in characterizing the governor of a state that features a legislature with a Democratic supermajority, which became a metaphor for government overspending during the recession as an effective counterweight to the spendthrifts in Sacramento.

“The (Democrats) have all the power, and if the governor is not concerned about it, he should be,” Dahle said.

Brown indicated in his speech that he is aware of the Democratic control of both houses.

“And I’m determined to avoid the fiscal mess that the last few governors had to deal with,” Brown said. “The way you avoid it is by holding the line, by exercising a common sense approach to how we spend our money.”

His budget includes a rainy-day fund of $1 billion and even drew cautious praise from Republicans. GOP lawmakers had opposed Brown’s tax initiative and had refused to work with him a year earlier to raise taxes in exchange for pension overhauls.

Republican Assemblyman Jeff Gorell of Camarillo called Brown’s proposal a “realistic budget framework.” He said Republicans would try to ensure that the state’s four-year higher education systems do not raise tuition for at least seven years — the length of time the higher income taxes on the wealthy will remain in effect.

Dahle said he was skeptical that Brown’s budget will follow through on its intended aims, including restoring funding to California’s education system.

Brown said Thursday that he will urge higher education leaders to avoid charging students more after years of runaway tuition hikes. He wants the additional money from the tax hikes focused on public schools. His plan includes $2.7 billion more for K-12 education and community colleges, bringing state and local spending to $56.2 billion.

Among Brown’s priorities is creating a new education funding formula.

It would be aimed at giving school districts more control over spending and directing state money to the neediest children and poorest districts.

His proposal is expected to run into opposition from lawmakers representing more affluent regions of the state, but Brown said the state should spend proportionally more on students who have “disproportionate challenges.”

“Growing up in Compton or Richmond is not like it is to grow up in Los Gatos or Beverly Hills or Piedmont,” he said of his redistribution plan. “It is controversial, but it is right, and it’s fair.”

Dean Vogel, president of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association, praised the budget.

“On a day when it was announced by an Education Week report that California has dropped two spots to now rank 49th in per-student funding, it’s good to see a state budget proposal that begins to turn the tide,” Vogel said.

“After years of drastic cuts, it is necessary for the future of our children and the future of California that money owed to students and public education begin to be repaid.”

Another Republican, Jim Nielsen, who represents a portion of Nevada County as the District 4 State Senator, praised Brown for dedicating funds to veterans issues.

“I am appreciative of Gov. Brown’s proposal to fund veterans homes in Redding and Fresno for the upcoming fiscal year,” Nielsen said. “Our veterans have made tremendous sacrifices for our nation. We must continue to support them.”

Brown’s budget proposal now goes to the Legislature and will be revised in May after the state gets a clearer picture of its tax revenue in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. Lawmakers have until June 15 to send their own budget plan to the governor.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4239.

Matthew Renda

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The Union Updated Jan 11, 2013 07:28AM Published Jan 11, 2013 08:31PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.