Doesn’t Sound Like So Grim a Revised Budget

For a state budget with a hole that’s now $15.7 billion  — $6.5 billion worse than the problem estimated by Gov. Jerry Brown In January – California is in great shape.

At least that’s the impression from reading the Democratic governor’s portrayal of his revised budget plan, released May 14.

The spending plan protects education and public safety, Brown says in his press release. Public schools are slated to receive $5.2 billion more than the governor proposed giving them in January.

Years of cuts in funding for schools and community colleges are reversed, the Democratic governor says, noting that money for public schools and community colleges would jump by $17.3 billion over the next four years.

The budget also “keeps higher education affordable for low-income students” and makes government “more efficient and less costly,” Brown says.

“The revised May budget slashes spending in almost every part of government, but proposes a 16 percent increase in funding for K-12 education, subject to voter approval,” Brown’s press release says.

Voter approval, of course, is the rub.

If Californians don’t increase their own taxes in November, as Brown wants them to, none of them above happens.

Unless voters approve a measure Brown is trying to qualify for the ballot that would increase taxes on the state’s higher earners for seven years and boost the sales tax for every Californian by a quarter-cent for four years, schools will see a reduction, not an increase.

Brown stressed this point in a YouTube video May 12.

And he reiterated it at his Capitol press conference unveiling the new spending plan.

”Cutting alone really doesn’t do it,” Brown told reporters May 14. “Please,” he implored voters, “increase taxes temporarily on the most affluent and everyone else with a quarter of a cent sales tax. I think it’s reasonable. I think it’s fair.”

But it’s not until Page 7 of the revised budget’s 94-page summary that Brown reveals that any “good” in his budget plan is contingent on higher taxes.

More than half of his budget solution — $8.5 billion – is premised on voters approving the November tax increase measure.

Of the $17.3 billion more for public schools and community colleges, $12.7 billion only materializes if Californians agree to increase their taxes this fall.

And, if they don’t, Page 9 lays out the consequences.

Rather than a 16 percent increase for schools and community colleges, their funding will be reduced by $5.5 billion – a $700 million higher reduction than proposed in the governor’s January proposal.

Similarly, the University of California and the California State University system would see cuts of $250 million each — $200 million in January – if the tax measure is not approved.

Under Brown, UC and CSU have already had their funding reduced by $750 million over the past two years.

“As education spending accounts for 53 percent of general fund spending and the May Revision substantially increases K – 14 spending and protects the University of California and California State University from deeper cuts, schools and universities would be the most affected with the additional revenues,” Brown notes.

Irrespective of whether the tax proposal wins at the polls, Brown still would reduce spending for Medi-Cal, the state’s health program fro the poor, by $1.2 – up form $842 million in January. Much of the increase, some $150 million, comes from reducing supplemental payments to private hospitals and ending grants to public hospitals.






Filed under: Budget and Economy

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