California Governor Jerry Brown (D) has unveiled a record high $122.6 billion state budget for 2016-2017, which includes increased spending for education and a raise in earned income tax credit for the lowest-income working families. There will also be an increase in cost-of-living for the elderly, blind, and disabled — the first since 2006.
The San Francisco Chronicle's John Wildermuth quotes the governor:
"The budget, relative to budgets of the past decade and a half, is in good shape."
Brown continued by warning that a recession might increase the budget into a $40 billion-plus deficit by the 2019-2020 fiscal year. He advised his audience at the Capitol news conference that if matters unfold as he wants them to, there will still be red, just not as much. He added that many changes could occur before the new spending plan takes effect July 1.
The new budget increases per-pupil spending in K-12 to $10,591, up $3,600 from 2011-2012, and funds the University of California and California State University in a way that keeps tuition right where it is.
The governor's proposal is simply a first draft and is full of question marks and possible oversights. The state general fund includes money that pays for public education, courts, MediCal, prisons, infrastructure, and other public health and social service programs. It also covers transportation and environmental protection.
The money in the general fund primarily comes from personal income taxes, sales taxes, and corporate taxes.
Gov. Brown's increases to the budget signal that the nation's most populous state is finally rebounding from years of economic struggles.
In the overall budget, the spending increase amounted to 6% in the general fund and almost 2% in the overall budget. But Gov. Brown cautioned against overspending and asked the state to stay focused on actual needs, writes Sharon Bernstein of Reuters.
Brown, who served as California's governor from 1975 to 1983, has run a tight budget since he returned to office in 2011. He built a rainy day fund and held down expenses to come against a $27 billion deficit.
But the governor has angered advocates for the disabled and disadvantaged and has left some of his Democratic partners frustrated. However, the new proposal includes the Jan. 1 increase in minimum wage to $10 an hour and Brown continues to support a tax credit for poverty-level workers.
The LA School Report's Craig Clough reports that the increase in the education budget is explained on Brown's website in this way:
"The budget provides a fourth-year investment of more than $2.8 billion in the Local Control Funding Formula, which focuses on students with the greatest challenges to success, bringing the formula to 95 percent implementation. The budget also proposes a $1.6 billion early education block grant that combines three existing programs to promote local flexibility, focusing on disadvantaged students and improved accountability."
There is a flip side to the jubilation that has spread across the education community because of the funding boost. Prop 30 is a tax increase that has been a well-spring of money for schools, but the tax is due to stop this year unless voters support an extension that could appear on the November ballot.
Now that the budget has been designed, there will be months of legislative negotiation before lawmakers come up with a final draft.