[KHTS] – California Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal drew reaction from around the state Thursday, including lawmakers who represent the Santa Clarita Valley.
“The 2014‑15 Budget continues our investment in schools by providing $10 billion this year alone to give California students a much better chance to succeed,” Brown said, in a statement. “The budget also provides new money for our colleges and universities with a focus on getting students their degrees in a timely manner. It also funds the expansion of health care coverage to millions of Californians and avoids the early release of serious and violent offenders, while taking important steps to reduce future crime.”
Brown is expected to formally introduce his 2014-15 budget proposal Friday at a news conference in Sacramento.
The $155 billion plan is expected to increase general fund spending by 8 percent, according to officials.
Brown released a 271-page summary on a state-run website ebudget.ca.gov.
The budget plan notes the state is still plagued by a “Wall of Debt,” according to Brown, due to “unprecedented level of debts, deferrals, and budgetary obligations accumulated over the prior decade.”
The proposal notes the state’s fiscal situation has turned around “dramatically,” since 2011, when the state’s coffers were still recovering from the impact of the Great Recession.
However, it also cites retirement‑related unfunded liabilities that total $218 billion, and total unfunded liabilities at $354.5 billion.
One of the initial criticisms repeated by state officials is the high-speed rail project spending that’s included, which has been roundly criticized by Santa Clarita officials.
Here are comments from several state officials on Brown’s budget proposal:
Assemblyman Scott Wilk
Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, 38th Assembly District
“I like the fact that he’s trying to be fiscally prudent, I think the rainy day fund is insufficient,” Wilk said, pointing to Brown’s proposed $1.6 billion reserve plan. “So the problem is this: We had a phenomenal year in the stock market and Proposition 30 tax increases… Our revenue is derived from 75 percent from our income tax, and as the Gray Davis-era tech bubble taught us, we can’t treat that money as permanent because what goes up, must comes down.
“If we‘re not going to have tax reform, then we need to have a rainy day fund. My concern is if (Brown) starts at $1.6 billion, it’s not going to end at $1.6 billion. The other challenge of course is having transparency in this process, theres just no transparency.”
Sen. Steve Knight
State Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale
It may be the best budget I’ve seen in the five years I’ve been up here,” Knight said. “There is much talk about a rainy day fund, which we’ve been advocating for the five years I’ve been here. There is talk about paying down debt. … Id like to see that we talk more about the debt we’re going to see in the future. Our retired teachers fund is woefully underfunded, and we should start looking into doing something about that.
“I agree that paying down the debt and a rainy day fund should be priorities, but down in Southern California — water — we are at a 17 percent snowpack right now, we are in a drought and water is not coming this year, and we know that. So we do have to have a bond, we do have to have a fix for this, and I think that’s something the governor can push for this year.”
Assemblyman Steve Fox
Assemblyman Steve Fox, R-Antelope Valley, 36th Assembly District
“I wish to commend the governor for his budget. A significant part of this proposal deals with debt repayment and no new taxes. Gov. Brown wants to pay down our credit card, live within our means, and plan for the future. This is a very responsible budget. The governor’s fiscal plan included $108.7 billion in forecast income, and $106.8 in proposed General Fund expenditures. The budget also includes a $2.5 billion allowance for the state’s rainy day funds.
“The budget released today includes modest funding increases for education and human services. The plan proposes a $22 billion increase from the 2011-2012 budget for K-12 schools which will total almost $70 billion by 2017-18. It will eliminate all remaining deferred payments to K-12 schools, which reached a high of $9.5 billion, in the 2011-2012. A funding increase of 11.4 percent also is slated for the state’s community colleges.”
George Runner, State Board of Equalization representative, former state senator
“A budget that demonstrates fiscal restraint is essential for California to stay on track. The governor’s high speed rail funding plan shows at least some of his funding priorities are off track. Increased revenues are primarily the result of temporary tax increases that will soon expire. California cannot solve its long-term budget problems by relying on temporary solutions that undermine job creation and economic growth.
“A comprehensive plan must prepare for the ending of the temporary tax increases Californians imposed on themselves to get out of the fiscal hole of overspending and recession. It is vital to set aside reserves for future shortfalls, or the Legislature may push to make temporary tax increases permanent. A strong rainy day fund is an important part of ensuring our state’s fiscal stability.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson:
“This budget builds upon California’s re-commitment to ensuring that every child graduates with the tools they need to succeed in the society and economy they will find outside their classrooms. When the voters passed Proposition 30 in 2012, they put our schools back on track after several years and billions of dollars of budget cuts. With this new plan, we continue down that path. Per-pupil spending continues to climb—with additional funding for the most vulnerable of our students under the Local Control Funding Formula. And schools face the prospect of starting the next school year with billions of dollars of deferrals finally repaid.
“I thank the governor for making education a top priority in the budget. It means a strong starting point for the coming months’ conversations—but work remains to be done. I look forward to discussing with Governor Brown universal transitional kindergarten—opening the door to this early learning opportunity for every 4 year old in California.”
(State Sen. Fran Pavley’s office did not issue a statement. Her district encompasses a portion of the Santa Clarita Valley.)
California State University System:
“We applaud the Governor for sustaining his commitment to the multi-year funding plan for the California State University (CSU). This investment enables us to serve California’s future economic growth, and social mobility for our populace, through affordable access to high quality education and degrees. The good news for the CSU and its students is that the proposed budget will enable the University to improve existing programs and services, and maintain tuition at the current rate for the fourth consecutive year,” explained Chancellor Timothy P. White.
The Governor’s 2014-15 budget proposal includes a proposed $142.2 million budget allocation for the CSU. The new debt service framework for some facilities, outlined in the proposal, will provide the University with the improved flexibility and tools to manage debt service obligations, and address critical maintenance, repair and infrastructure needs throughout the system.
The Governor’s budget plan also addresses a much-needed policy change to the Cal Grant program to stabilize financial support for students. The policy improvement will keep a CSU education financially accessible for ongoing students who experience significant income fluctuations. Under the past policy, these students were at high risk of losing eligibility for the Cal Grant program.