Brown signs off on bud­get

Spend­ing plan gives a lift to schools and the poor, but leaves some is­sues un­re­solved.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Chris Mege­rian chris.mege­ Twit­ter: @chris­mege­rian

SACRA­MENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new $ 167.6- bil­lion bud­get Wed­nes­day that ex­pands child care, boosts fund­ing for public schools and opens the state’s public healthcare pro­gram to chil­dren in the coun­try il­le­gally, but leaves some key is­sues un­re­solved.

The new spend­ing plan in­cludes a $ 115.4- bil­lion gen­eral fund and takes ef­fect July 1. It is a com­pro­mise be­tween Brown and Demo­cratic law­mak­ers, who were able to se­cure in­creased funds for some gov­ern­ment ser­vices, though not as much as they wanted.

“The gover­nor’s sig­na­ture is the next step for a pru­dent and pro­gres­sive bud­get that will make Cal­i­for­nia a bet­ter place to live, work and play,” Assem­bly Speaker Toni Atkins ( DSan Diego) said in a state­ment.

As part of the agree­ment, an es­ti­mated 170,000 im­mi­grants 18 or younger could qual­ify for Medi- Cal, the state’s public healthcare pro­gram, for the f irst time. The ex­pan­sion is sched­uled to be­gin in May and is ex­pected to cost $ 132 mil­lion an­nu­ally.

“For a rel­a­tively small in­vest­ment, ev­ery child in ev­ery Cal­i­for­nia class­room and play­ground will now have ac­cess to care and cov­er­age,” An­thony Wright, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion Health Ac­cess Cal­i­for­nia, said in a state­ment. “We all ben­e­fit from that.”

The bud­get also in­cludes a $ 380- mil­lion earned in­come tax credit, which could be used by an es­ti­mated 825,000 poor fam­i­lies to keep more of their pay­checks.

The av­er­age qual­i­fy­ing house­hold is ex­pected to gain $ 460 a year. The max­i­mum credit, for fam­i­lies with three or more chil­dren, is $ 2,653.

When sign­ing the bud­get, Brown used his veto power spar­ingly, trim­ming $ 1.3 mil­lion, mostly by elim­i­nat­ing $ 1 mil­lion in­tended to help im­prove the wa­ter qual­ity in Lake County’s Clear Lake. Brown di­rected ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials to f ind other sources of fund­ing for the work.

In ad­di­tion, Brown cut money for a for­est ad­vi­sory coun­cil and for buy­ing map­ping soft­ware, deem­ing it du­plica­tive or un­nec­es­sary.

More spend­ing de­ci­sions still need to be made.

The bud­get does not in­clude a plan for us­ing hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars gen­er­ated by Cal­i­for­nia’s cap- and- trade pro­gram, which charges fees to pol­luters. The money is re­quired by law to help re­duce green­house gas emis­sions, and law­mak­ers have com­pet­ing ideas for how to spend it.

By call­ing spe­cial leg­isla­tive ses­sions, Brown also has di­rected law­mak­ers to f ind sus­tain­able fund­ing for trans­porta­tion and public healthcare. Cal­i­for­nia’s roads have suf­fered from over­due re­pair work and a con­sen­sus has not been reached on how to cover the cost.

Law­mak­ers are also in­ter­ested in boost­ing spend­ing on ser­vices for the de­vel­op­men­tally dis­abled and low- in­come Cal­i­for­ni­ans, items that were jet­ti­soned from the bud­get dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions with the gover­nor.

Both spe­cial ses­sions have raised the pos­si­bil­ity of higher taxes and fees to pay for more spend­ing. Although Brown pledged to seek voter ap­proval for new taxes while run­ning for gover­nor in 2010, he said that prom­ise doesn’t ap­ply since win­ning re­elec­tion last year.

“When I ran the sec­ond time, I didn’t say that,” Brown said last week when he an­nounced the bud­get deal.

Brown has more work to do on long- term fi­nan­cial is­sues, such as fig­ur­ing out how to pay for healthcare for re­tired state work­ers. The cost is es­ti­mated at $ 71.8 bil­lion more than of­fi­cials have set aside, mak­ing it one of the big­gest drags on Cal­i­for­nia fi­nances.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have been ne­go­ti­at­ing with unions to de­velop a plan that would re­quire work­ers and the state to set aside more money to cover the bills.

So far no agree­ments have been reached, and no ad­di­tional money for the pur­pose was in­cluded in the bud­get.

“We knew that bar­gain­ing was go­ing to be a com­pli­cated, time- con­sum­ing task,” said Michael Co­hen, Brown’s fi­nance di­rec­tor.

Carl Costas As­so­ci­ated Press

DAR­REN TREE WAL­LACE, cen­ter, ral­lies out­side the state Capi­tol on June 2, call­ing for in­creased Med­i­Cal fund­ing. The new state bud­get calls for a $ 132- mil­lion- a- year ex­pan­sion of the healthcare pro­gram.

Rich Pe­dron­celli As­so­ci­ated Press

GOV. JERRY BROWN, with Assem­bly Speaker Toni Atkins, left, and Se­nate Pres­i­dent Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, reached a deal on the bud­get last week.

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