Lawmakers see good, bad in governor’s revised budget – valley news what to expect after a tooth extraction

The unprecedented $199.3 billion state budget announced Friday, May 11, under Gov. Jerry Brown’s May Revise reflects some level of “fiscal restraint” and contains other positives, several Riverside County lawmakers acknowledged, but others found the revision wanting for lack of tax relief and greater commitments to higher education.

“I’m hard-pressed to accept the conventional wisdom that California has a ‘budget surplus’ of a few billion when the state is staring down more than $200 billion in outstanding debt and liabilities,” Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, said. “Until we honestly address those debts, the idea California has a budget surplus is the stuff of fiction.”

She said budgeting priorities should focus on taking California out of first place for poverty nationwide, as well as “freezing tuition in our public universities, investing in public safety, catching up on our deferred infrastructure repairs and providing tax relief to all Californians.”

“He is correct to point out that we must plan for uncertain times,” Stone said. “We had record revenues come in largely as a result of increased income taxes and record-high capital gains taxes, and it is imperative that we do not use this unexpected boost in taxpayer dollars to fund new, expansive programs.”

Brown is recommending that the Legislature shift $4.4 billion in unanticipated revenue to the state’s reserve pool, bringing the balance in fiscal year 2018-2019 to $13.4 billion. That change would still leave another $4 billion for general fund commitments.

“We’re nearing the longest economic recovery in modern history, and as Isaac Newton observed: ‘What goes up must come down,’” Brown said. “This is a time to save for our future, not to make pricey promises we can’t keep. I said it before, and I’ll say it again: ‘Let’s not blow it now.’”

The governor is seeking to spend an additional $2 billion on infrastructure projects, $359 million for homeless assistance statewide and $312 million to enhance mental health programs, more than three-quarters of which would go to counties for mandated programs geared to treatment of mentally-ill youth.

“California is in the grips of a crisis, with roughly a quarter of the nation’s homeless population living here,” Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, said. “Gov. Brown’s $359 million investment in addressing homelessness is paramount to help local governments immediately tackle the growing need in their own backyards.”

Under the May Revise, K-12 educational funding would increase by $4,600 per student compared to the level of per-pupil spending when Brown took office, according to the budget proposal, which also advances an overall 3 percent hike in funding for higher education, leaving tuition levels “unchanged at both the University of California and California State University systems.”

Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Moreno Valley, was less than impressed with the educational allotments. The former teacher, who chairs the Assembly Higher Education Committee, said the May Revise “failed to increase funding” for higher education programs in proportion to soaring demand.

“(The budget) falls drastically short of the funding needed to sustain our renowned universities in the long run,” Medina said. “Failure to fully invest in our institutions of higher education hurts current students and also forces universities to turn away thousands of students who are qualified for admission. This has a dramatically negative impact on California’s economy.”