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California Governor Jerry Brown prepares to unveil $113B budget

California Gov. Jerry Brown plans to unveil a record $113 billion state spending plan on Friday that gives schools a boost and pays debt but sets up a higher-education showdown by rejecting the University of California’s demand for more money to avert tuition hikes, a government official said.

The Democratic governor is scheduled Friday to release the new budget, which enjoys a second annual surplus but strives to contain unpredictable costs.

Brown’s budget will include a $1.2 billion deposit into the rainy day fund and a $1.2 billion debt payment, according to the official who was briefed on the budget but is not authorized to publicly disclose details ahead of the governor’s announcement.

Under the new spending plan, the state’s general fund will increase about 5 percent from the current $107.4 billion budget, fueled by a combination of personal income and corporate taxes.

Brown proposes using much of those gains on K-12 education and community colleges as required by law. He is using the surplus to fill the state’s rainy day fund and pay off debt accrued during the recession, including paying off a $15 billion bond that was championed a decade ago by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to close the state’s deficit.

Brown did not include additional support above the $120 million increase he previously pledged to the University of California system, which depends on no tuition increases. The California State University system, which has not proposed a fee hike, would also receive a $120 million boost.

“I will not make the students of California the default financiers of our colleges and universities,” the governor said during his inauguration address earlier this week.

Late last year, UC’s board of regents approved raising tuition by as much as 5 percent each of the next five years unless the state devotes additional support to the roughly $2.8 billion the state provided for the year. UC President Janet Napolitano has said the amount the governor has budgeted is inadequate to maintain the quality of the nation’s largest public university.

In refusing additional support, Brown is signaling to Napolitano that he wants the university system to do more with less. He has suggested offering more online classes, requiring faculty members to devote more time to teaching instead of research and curbing salaries for administrators and professors.

In other parts of the budget, the governor did not propose many new programs but instead focused on covering growing costs to existing programs.

In being sworn in for his unprecedented fourth term this week, the governor said the state already has made massive financial commitments to health and human services and education. Much of that cost, he warned, “is not yet known.”

Brown noted that about 4 million more people are enrolled in the state’s low-income health care plan, Medi-Cal, as compared with 2012. The administration is mindful that President Barack Obama’s executive order to spare some immigrants from deportation will enable hundreds of thousands of low-income immigrants in California to apply for the state’s version of Medicaid.

While the president’s action excludes immigrants who came to the country illegally from qualifying for federal health benefits, California has a policy of using state money to provide health coverage for low-income immigrants with deferred action status.

The governor, who successfully fended off several new spending proposals last year, is facing renewed pressure from members of his own party to increase assistance to welfare, health care, child care and other social programs related to income inequality concerns as the state enjoys a second year of surplus.

Republicans, whose votes are not needed to pass a budget, have said they support the governor’s plan for saving the reserve but have criticized him for failing to provide an economic strategy for job growth. Brown’s budget includes funding for workforce development through adult education and technical training programs.

KESQ News Team


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