By Matthew Renda
California Governor Jerry Brown said Friday that he reached an agreement with state lawmakers on the 2018-19 budget to increase higher-education funding and fight the homelessness crisis.
State Senate President Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Brown’s fellow Democrats, came to the agreement on California’s budget that seeks to increase funding for higher education, child care and welfare grants.
“After detailed discussions, California is on the verge of having another on-time, balanced budget,” Brown said in a joint statement with Rendon and Atkins. “From a $27 billion deficit in 2011, the state now enjoys a healthy surplus and a solid Rainy Day Fund.”
The announcement marked the culmination of a furious week of negotiations as the lawmakers worked to cement a budget in advance of July 1 and a new fiscal year.
The terms of the agreement are not immediately available, but lawmakers revealed the broad contours of the deal and talked about the legislative goals baked into California’s spending plan.
Atkins stressed investment in education, both in terms of K-12 and higher education, in her statement.
“This budget balances fiscal responsibility with social responsibility by significantly expanding the Rainy Day Fund and also making record levels of investment in education funding – both K-12 and higher education – child care access, and funding to fight homelessness and to protect children from living in deep poverty,” she said Friday.
Likewise, Rendon pointed to “easing the homelessness crisis” as one of the major planks of the deal, while also noting financial commitments to health care and combating family poverty.
“No single budget can capture all the opportunities California has, or meet all the challenges we face — but the smart and sensible choices in this budget absolutely move California closer to where we want and need to be,” Rendon said.
California’s legislative Democrats, who dominate both houses of the Legislature, foreshadowed their priorities in May, indicating they would push for significant investments in education and substantive solutions to the state’s persistent housing woes.
A homelessness crisis on streets throughout California is one part of those housing woes that lawmakers are striving to tackle by funding affordable housing projects and other programs.
“We keep talking about how our economy is booming, near record-low unemployment — yet we have this incredible homeless problem,” Rendon said in May. “You start to think about what that crisis might look like if the budget wasn’t as robust as it is. And that gets scary.”
Rendon also indicated funding higher education at increased levels was going to be a priority. Rising tuition costs and more student debt have plagued both the University of California and California State University systems in recent years, and Rendon and other lawmakers displayed an eagerness to put California’s booming economy to work for the next generation of workers seeking to get an education.
“We feel that he’s underfunding the Cal States and the UC’s,” Rendon said of Governor Brown last month.
Brown, who has expressed frustration with bloated bureaucracies throughout California’s university system, has allocated three-percent increases to university systems in recent years, but some lawmakers say it isn’t enough to prevent students from feeling the pain of rising costs.
While the specific parameters of the deal are not yet available, it appears Rendon and Atkins won concessions from the governor’s office.