Governor's Revise Sparks Calls for More Spending
By Anna Schuessler
San Mateo County lawmakers were left wondering how a larger portion of the unanticipated revenue padding California’s budget can be dedicated toward homelessness and education after Gov. Jerry Brown included upticks in the state revenue and surplus in his revised state budget Friday.
In adjusting the budget he proposed in January to include an additional $8 billion in revenue and an increase in the state surplus from the $6 billion projected in January to nearly $9 billion, Brown balanced his trademark fiscally-prudent approach with additional spending, proposing nearly $4 billion in one-time spending from the projected $137.6 billion general fund budget.
Though he proposed an additional $2 billion toward infrastructure projects at universities, flood control measures and other state facilities, $359 million aimed to fund emergency assistance with issues of homelessness and another $312 million to cover mental health services in his last May budget revision, Brown made sure to set aside some $14 billion in California’s rainy-day fund to weather the effects of future economic downturns.
“This is a time to save for our future, not to make pricey promises we can’t keep,” he said. “I said it before and I’ll say it again: Let’s not blow it now.”
Acknowledging Brown’s legacy of fiscal responsibility, local legislators said they plan to push for even more spending on homelessness and health programs and education funding to support schools and programs for students of all ages. Though Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Palo Alto, was encouraged by Brown’s focus on conserving funds for an upcoming recession, he hoped the governor and legislators would be able to meet in the middle as the Legislature discusses spending on the state’s most pressing issues.
“I think the governor’s prudent approach will benefit us in the long run,” he said. “But let’s not neglect the needs that we have right now.”
Though increasing access to health care and bringing early childhood education funding back to pre-recession levels top the priorities for Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, he said the spread of homelessness throughout the state calls for a more focused response from state leaders, adding that could include a special session of the legislators.
“The homelessness crisis calls out for a statewide emergency response,” he said. “We would like to see more money in the budget to address that, the governor’s budget is inadequate.”
Mullin was joined by Berman, state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo in pegging education programs for additional funds in the coming weeks. For Hill, advocating for increased funding for K-12 schools so students are prepared to join the local economy is expected to be a priority, noting even fully funding schools today is not keeping pace with their rising costs.
“We’re giving them more money, but their costs have gone up faster than their revenue when you look at the pension costs they are saddled with and the special education [programs], costs have outpaced the increased revenues,” he said.