California Governor Jerry Brown unveiled his 2013-14 budget proposal yesterday, declaring that the state’s lean years of budget deficits are over. In place of dramatic spending cuts, the governor’s $97.6 billion dollar plan instead offers modest boosts to school funding, along with an expansion of the Medi-Cal program as the state transitions to its Covered California health benefit exchange in compliance with the federal Affordable Care Act.
At the San Diego Union-Times, a breakdown of the proposed budget plan highlights $2.7 billion in spending increases for K-12 schools and higher education, thanks to the passage of Proposition 30 this past November. This includes $250 million to each of California’s two public university systems and another $197 million for community colleges, the bulk of which reflects $179 million in deferred spending from previous years’ budgets.
Medi-Cal will also see more spending under the governor’s plan, although most of this would be underwritten by the federal government, reports the Los Angeles Times. A $350 million earmark will help enroll eligible Californians to the expanded program, which will be broadened to take the place of the current Healthy Families plan. The expansion would also cover low-income residents up to 138% of the federal poverty level, although the federal government will provide most of that funding: 100% for the first three years, and about 90% of the cost thereafter.
While Democratic leaders lauded the governor’s budget plan as a watershed moment compared to the troubling, cuts-filled budgets of past years, some progressive and social services organizations voiced dissatisfaction that recently slashed funding was not restored for programs that affect the elderly, the state courts system, and homeless and gang intervention programs, among others. Some legislators, while supportive of the governor’s proposals, suggested that the Legislature would regard the plan as a “good starting point” from which to work.
Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis), who chairs the Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care, was among those leaving the door open to more funding restoration in the final 2013-14 budget.
“Governor Brown’s common sense budget signals continued restraint and prioritizes repayment and reinvestment in education as the pathway to a brighter future. At the same time, we must not forget those at the other end of the age spectrum – the elderly and those with disabilities – whose lifelong sacrifices and contributions have made the down payment on our Golden State,” said Yamada. “We are in an aging society and the cumulative effects of program cuts to services serving impoverished seniors and disabled adults must be integral to the budget discussion.”
“For the first time in several years, California is looking forward toward a responsible sustainable state budget that reflects California’s economic growth and investment of Proposition 30 revenues,” said Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-San Rafael). “This proposal serves as a good starting point for the discussions that will occur over the next several weeks as the Legislature deliberates California’s 2013-14 spending plan.”
Many Democratic and Republican legislators, however, voiced agreement that restraint in this years’ budget was the wisest choice as the state begins to emerge from its economic downturn.
“As we begin to pay down our debt and reinvest in critical programs, we must do so in a strategic and thoughtful manner,” said state Senator Mark Desaulnier (D-Concord). “Governmental oversight and keeping a vigilant eye on spending must remain top priorities. I agree with the Governor’s view that 2013 should be a year of fiscal discipline and living within our means.”