California Gov. Jerry Brown likes to frame himself as the one thing standing in the way of out-of-control spending in Sacramento.
“Everybody wants to see more spending. That’s what this place is. It’s a big spending machine,” the Democrat said Tuesday morning, when he unveiled his updated budget plan.
“You need something? Come see if you can get it. But I am the backstop at the end and I’m going to keep this budget balanced as long as I’m around here.”
Brown’s latest $96 billion state budget would spend less money than the proposal he unveiled in January. The governor said that even though California brought in more tax dollars than it expected to this year, its economic recovery is still shaky. The decrease, he said, is a response to the economic uncertainty created by the federal budget sequester, ongoing problems in the European Union and other factors.
“We have climbed out of a hole with a Proposition 30 tax. That’s good,” said Brown. “But this is not the time to break out the champagne.”
The state brought in $4.5 billion in extra tax revenue this year, but Brown argued that when you factor in various projections, the total shrinks to a bit less than $3 billion. He wants it all to go to education spending. “The money’s not there” for restoring other spending cuts, he said. “We have obligations under Prop. 98, and we have incredible responsibilities under the Affordable Care Act. And the Known Unknowns are considerable.”
Despite opposition from legislative leaders, Brown is sticking to an education funding formula that delivers extra money to poor school districts. The so-called “concentration grant,” which drives additional money to districts where more than half of students are either poor or learning English, is still in his plan, even though it’s smaller than the initial version.
Democratic leaders in the Senate and Assembly want to spread that money out across every school district in order to make up for years of budget cuts, but Brown said that proposal is less effective. “If you spray it over the whole 6 million kids [in California schools], they’ll hardly notice it,” he said.
"If you concentrate it, as my formula does, you can make some dramatic improvements on areas that, really, we’ve neglected.”
Brown’s education funding formula will likely be the major sticking point during the next four weeks, when the governor and legislators negotiate the budget. But the controversial concentration grant is really just a sliver of the state budget. The Brown administration said it accounts for just four cents of every dollar spent on education.
But after years of funding cuts, that extra revenue is very valuable to school districts.
KQED's Mina Kim reports that Brown proposed a state-based approach, rather than a county-by-county approach, to implementing the state’s expansion of Medi-Cal under the federal Affordable Care Act.
The approach means that the governor is planning to take on health care coverage of indigent Californians but reduce funding to the counties.
The May budget also includes $500 million more for Medi-Cal spending, based in part on delays to the state’s plans to cut payment rates to doctors. Brown’s budget continues cuts to health care, including dental benefits for Medi-Cal recipients, to the dismay of health advocates who have planned rallies across the state today, including in Oakland, Sacramento and Fresno.
Tweets from reporters:
As some Capitol watchers surmised, the entire extra #cabudget money, plus more, effectively goes 2 schoools
— John Myers (@johnmyers) May 14, 2013
— Josh Richman (@Josh_Richman) May 14, 2013
Brown says #fracking in CA "could be a fabulous opportunity."
— Scott Detrow (@scottdetrow) May 14, 2013