A look at Gov. Jerry Brown’s final California budget
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown released his last budget proposal Friday, a $137.6 billion spending plan with a projected a surplus of nearly $9 billion. Including bonds and special funds that are dedicated to specific purposes, the budget reaches $199.3 billion. Here’s a look at some of the highlights as the term-limited governor begins his last round of budget negotiations with Democratic legislative leaders.
Brown directs the bulk of the state’s new revenue to reserves that could be drawn down during a budget emergency. His proposal would boost the rainy day fund to nearly $14 billion, filling it to 10 percent of the general fund, the maximum allowed under the state constitution. His plan also leaves $3.2 billion unbudgeted, which could cover unexpected costs such as natural disasters or be carried forward to future years.
Brown in January proposed slight increases in the budgets for the University of California and California State University systems but he is continuing to resist their vocal requests for more. Leaders of the two systems and community colleges say they need more money to pay competitive wages and mitigate tuition increases. The Democratic governor’s latest proposal adds $100 million for each system to work on deferred maintenance but he did not add to their ongoing budgets. He also proposed cutting UC and CSU state funding if they raise tuition.
Cities and counties would receive $359 million to help the homeless in California, who represent a quarter of the nation’s entire homeless population according to federal data. The money would include $250 million for emergency aid block grants, $32 million for the state’s welfare program CalWORKs and $50 million for people will mental illness. It also includes funding for domestic violence shelters, a state council that coordinates homeless assistance, and support for homeless youth and seniors. A bipartisan group of mayors from California’s 11 largest cities has lobbied at the state capital this year for $1.5 billion to tackle homelessness.
Caring for inmates and lower-income residents who contract the Hepatitis C virus is costing California much more than expected. Brown’s budget revision calls for $176 million more next year to expand treatment for the blood-borne liver disease. The bulk of the money — nearly $106 million — would treat a projected 22,000 infected inmates. That’s about 17 percent of the prison system’s nearly 130,000 inmates. Another $70 million would expand treatment for patients age 13 and up who receive state-funded health coverage through the Medi-Cal program. The money would permit treating infected patients at all stages of the virus to keep up with evolving national standards. There are some exceptions, including those who are projected to have less than 12 months to live.
Revenue from newly legalized marijuana sales has come in lower than expected. The state raised just $34 million from cannabis excise taxes in the first three months of legal sales. That’s unlikely to catch up to the $185 million forecast for the first six months of sales. Officials say they still expect marijuana revenue to ramp up over time, but Brown downgraded his revenue expectations for the near term. Where the tax money goes is mostly set in stone through a formula approved by voters in 2016, which directs funding toward research, mitigating the effects of past criminalization and drug abuse treatment.
Source: California Department of Finance, interviews.