June 13, 2014
California lawmakers are still working feverishly to put the final touches on a budget deal before Sunday's deadline. The proposed budget, which is expected to top $156 billion and include key provisions that impact education and California's economy, will likely be sent to the desk of California Governor Jerry Brown over the weekend. According to Reuters, California's improving financial situation is the result of fiscal restraint applied by Governor Brown's administration, and this budget is no exception aside from a few minor details.
Among the splurges in the budget currently being proposed are a provision that extends free pre-kindergarten classes to low-income four-year-olds and an increase in funding to vocational education.
"We can no longer afford a one-size-fits-all education system," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, the lawmaker who pushed for additional vocational funding. "We can no longer afford to separate academics from how they apply to the real world."
A separate push for $100 million in additional funding for the California State University System failed to make it into the final budget deal, leaving some lawmakers disappointed.
"By not properly funding higher education, we are undermining our future," Republican assembly member Jeff Gorrell told Reuters.
The San Jose Mercury News noted that other financial and budgetary issues are still being ironed out, including where the state should allocate any budget surplus and whether home aides who work for California's In-Home Supportive Services program should be allowed to earn overtime pay.
The governor has also proposed $160 million in spending for the state's court system and a bump in funding for the judicial system. State legislators have also been brainstorming how to spend the cap-and-trade proceeds they've been collecting from businesses that pay pollution fines.
According to the Mercury News, Governor Brown wanted some of the money allocated toward a bullet train. However, it appears legislators have reached a compromise that would also allocate some of the funds toward rail and affordable housing projects situated near "green transit."
Problems aside, California lawmakers are in much better fiscal shape than they were a few years ago. Political experts believe that a budget surplus is much easier for both parties to deal with than a deficit.
In addition to financial restraint practiced by current state legislators, another reason California's fiscal situation has improved is the recent boost in collected capital-gains taxes and temporary sales and income tax increases, noted Bloomberg. Governor Brown believes the state should use the additional funds to pay down debt and save for future financial calamities. However, with so many ideas on the table, state lawmakers hope they'll be able to allocate more funding to social programs and education. In the end, it may just depend on how much money the state brings in.
"It is not only our hope, but it is our expectation, that revenue will be higher," San Francisco Senator Mark Leno recently said during Tuesday's committee meeting.
Compiled by Holly Johnson
"California Budget Heads Toward Vote With Compromises," bloomberg.com, June 11, 2014, Michael B. Marois, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-06-12/california-budget-heads-toward-vote-with-compromises.html
"California lawmakers wheel and deal before Sunday budget deadline," reuters.com, June 12, 2014, Sharon Bernstein, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/12/usa-california-budget-idUSL2N0OT1VF20140612
"California's budget deadline looms with a more civil tone in Capitol," San Jose Mercury News, June 10, 2014, Jessica Calefati, http://www.mercurynews.com/california/ci_25938599/state-budget-deadlin