BUD­GET PLAN IS SENT TO GOV. BROWN

Blue­print would boost school and health­care spend­ing while adding to state cash re­serves.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By John My­ers

Cal­i­for­nia law­mak­ers gave fi­nal ap­proval Thurs­day to a $183.2-bil­lion bud­get, a plan that broadly boosts gov­ern­ment spend­ing while con­tin­u­ing the re­cent ef­fort to build up cash re­serves.

Both houses of the Leg­is­la­ture rat­i­fied the spend­ing blue­print af­ter com­plet­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions ear­lier in the week with Gov. Jerry Brown. Though most of the bud­get was put in place dur­ing Thurs­day’s lengthy floor ses­sions in the state Se­nate and Assem­bly, a hand­ful of re­lated bills won’t be con­sid­ered un­til later.

Brown is ex­pected to sign the plan into law be­fore the new fis­cal year be­gins July 1.

Here’s a look at some of the most im­por­tant changes to Cal­i­for­nia gov­ern­ment ser­vices and pro­grams in the com­ing 12 months:

Third of bud­get will go to pub­lic schools

The bud­get plan al­lo­cates $74.5 bil­lion to K-12 schools and com­mu­nity col­leges, a mix of state rev­enue and prop­erty taxes. That’s $3.2 bil­lion more than the fi­nal tally of funds for the cur­rent year. The bud­get spends more than $11,000, on av­er­age, for each stu­dent — a fig­ure that’s grown by about a third since 2011.

Law­mak­ers also are pay­ing off more than $600 mil­lion in school obli­ga­tions from prior years. And they voted to ex­tend an­other five years Cal­i­for­nia’s “district of choice” law — al­low­ing some

schools to ad­mit stu­dents re­gard­less of where they live — but made changes to ad­dress crit­i­cism that the ex­ist­ing law is un­fair to mi­nor­ity stu­dents.

The bud­get also adds more than 2,900 spots for stu­dents in state preschool classes, and boosts fund­ing for preschool and child care pro­grams.

Cal­i­for­nia vot­ers cre­ated the man­date that pub­lic schools must re­ceive the largest share of state tax dol­lars, but the fi­nal num­ber de­pends on eco­nomic fore­casts and thus is sub­ject to po­lit­i­cal ne­go­ti­a­tions. Education ad­vo­cates also worry the man­date cre­ates a per­cep­tion that it’s all the money schools need.

Health­care’s price tag: $105.6 bil­lion

Though schools get the largest slice of Cal­i­for­nia tax dol­lars, the com­bi­na­tion of fed­eral and state funds makes health­care the sin­gle big­gest func­tion of state gov­ern­ment — with a to­tal price tag of $105.6 bil­lion in the bud­get ap­proved by the Leg­is­la­ture.

That spend­ing is fo­cused on Medi-Cal, the health­care pro­gram for low-in­come Cal­i­for­ni­ans. Ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates, 14.2 mil­lion peo­ple —more than one in three state res­i­dents — are en­rolled. The new bud­get’s most no­table pro­vi­sion will boost the pay­ments made to doc­tors and den­tists who treat Medi-Cal pa­tients, money gen­er­ated by the tobacco tax in­crease con­tained in Propo­si­tion 56, which vot­ers ap­proved in Novem­ber. The bud­get also adds new fund­ing for den­tal and vi­sion ser­vices of­fered to Medi-Cal pa­tients.

The bud­get pro­vides $50 mil­lion in state fund­ing for women’s health ser­vices, a re­sponse to fed­eral ef­forts to strip dol­lars from Planned Par­ent­hood. It changes state law to speed up the use of fed­eral dol­lars for ef­forts to fight the ris­ing epi­demic of opi­oid abuse. And it ex­pands fund­ing for ev­ery­thing from the state’s help line that an­swers health in­surance ques­tions to sup­port for sui­cide prevention pro­grams.

An ef­fort to boost in-state stu­dents

Law­mak­ers added money to boost the en­roll­ment of in-state stu­dents at both the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia and Cal­i­for­nia State Univer­sity. And they re­jected Brown’s ef­fort to can­cel the state’s schol­ar­ship pro­gram specif­i­cally de­signed for stu­dents from fam­i­lies of mid­dle-class in­comes.

Among the high­lights of higher education spend­ing, both the UC and Cal State sys­tems will get a boost in fund­ing. The UC sys­tem will get $131.2 mil­lion ex­tra and Cal State will get $162.3 mil­lion.

The bud­get boosts money to help Cal State stu­dents earn de­grees in four years and re­quires sys­tem lead­ers to of­fer ap­pli­cants a spot on an­other univer­sity cam­pus if they don’t get into their first choice. It as­sumes 1,500 ad­di­tional UC stu­dents from within the state of Cal­i­for­nia and im­poses new rules gov­ern­ing the of­fice of UC Pres­i­dent Janet Napoli­tano fol­low­ing an au­dit crit­i­cal of her spend­ing. Both sys­tems will get ad­di­tional funds for cam­pus pantries of­fer­ing free food and ad­vi­sors for stu­dents who qual­ify for food stamps.

Tax cred­its for the work­ing poor

Demo­cratic leg­is­la­tors praised the ex­pan­sion of Cal­i­for­nia’s earned in­come tax credit. The 2-year-old pro­gram pro­vides cash pay­ments to those who earn too lit­tle to pay state in­come taxes. Un­der the ap­proved bud­get, el­i­gi­bil­ity will rise for those who earn al­most $22,000 a year and will now in­clude peo­ple who are self­em­ployed. It’s es­ti­mated an ad­di­tional 1 mil­lion house­holds will qual­ify for the tax credit.

Coun­ties will re­ceive an ad­di­tional $109 mil­lion for wel­fare-to-work ser­vices, and will not shoul­der the full cost of an ex­ist­ing pro­gram that co­or­di­nates health ser­vices for se­niors and the dis­abled — a re­jec­tion of a plan Brown pro­posed in Jan­uary.

The bud­get in­cludes $15.5 mil­lion for vouch­ers that would help pro­vide child care for foster chil­dren. And it spends some $10 mil­lion to re­move lim­its on respite care that’s avail­able to fam­i­lies of the de­vel­op­men­tally dis­abled.

Money for roads and f lood pro­tec­tion

Trans­porta­tion fund­ing also was boosted, thanks to $2.8 bil­lion that will be raised as part of a tax and fee hike ap­proved in April. Most of that money, $1.7 bil­lion, will go to lo­cal street, road and tran­sit projects.

The bud­get also spends money to eval­u­ate the safety of dams across Cal­i­for­nia, and to re­view emer­gency ac­tion plans in the event of flood dan­gers.

About $8 bil­lion for pub­lic pen­sions

State gov­ern­ment is re­quired to con­trib­ute money each year to the re­tire­ment prom­ises made to pub­lic sec­tor em­ploy­ees, from those who work at state agen­cies and de­part­ments to teach­ers and col­lege fac­ulty. Those re­quired con­tri­bu­tions to the Cal­i­for­nia Pub­lic Em­ploy­ees’ Re­tire­ment Sys­tem and the Cal­i­for­nia State Teach­ers Re­tire­ment Sys­tem to­tal some $8 bil­lion in the bud­get that was ap­proved by law­mak­ers.

On top of that, Brown plans to bor­row an ad­di­tional $6 bil­lion from sur­plus state agency funds to make an ex­tra CalPERS pay­ment — though the fi­nal lan­guage still needs to be crafted this sum­mer. Pro­jec­tions show both Cal­i­for­nia’s pen­sion funds, ab­sent big changes, will come up at least tens of bil­lions of dol­lars short in cover­ing fu­ture re­tire­ment obli­ga­tions.

Rich Pe­dron­celli As­so­ci­ated Press

GOV. JERRY BROWN is ex­pected to sign the bud­get plan be­fore the next fis­cal year be­gins July 1.

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