Gov. Jerry Brown released a state budget for next fiscal year that is balanced and allocates more money for education.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Brown's $97 billion proposed budget for 2013-2014 has a $1 billion reserve, leading the governor to declare the state budget deficit has disappeared for the first time since the recession began.
A legislative analyst last fall had projected a $1.9 billion deficit, despite voters' approval in November of an income tax hike on high earners and a temporary hike in the sales tax.
An improving economy and higher tax revenues have erased that deficit.
Spending in the governor's 2013 budget would rise by 5 percent over the 2012-2013 budget, according to a Reuters report.
Nonetheless, the governor cautioned California cannot go back to previous spending levels. For example, Brown said he is unwilling to restore funding for some social programs that have been cut in recent years.
"It is best to maintain a very solid budget and a good reserve... or we'll go back to the boom and bust, borrow and spend," Brown was quoted by the Bee as saying.
The governor does recommend adding $125 million to both the state university and the state college system. As part of that, Brown wants colleges and universities to cap the number of classes students can take.
The governor also is recommending an additional $2.7 billion for local schools and community colleges, increasing the total education budget to $56 billion, the Bee reported.
As part of that extra funding, Brown is asking for a financial overhaul of the California school system, according to the Bee.
State Superintendent Tom Torlakson said he believes the governor is on the right track.
“The governor’s budget proposal keeps the promise we made to Californians who supported Proposition 30 and wisely begins to restore some of what our schools have lost. It will take years to bring our education system back to financial health and I applaud the governor for beginning that work in earnest," said Torlakson.
He added, “I admire the governor’s determination to move forward with an overhaul of California’s confusing system of school finance and I share his desire to direct more help to students and schools with the greatest needs. At the same time, I remain concerned about the fragile fiscal state of so many school districts and preserving state priorities. I look forward to examining details of the governor’s proposal and working closely with the education community throughout this challenging process.”
State Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord), the chair of the budget subcommittee on education finance, also praised the governor's efforts.
“This is the ‘live within our means’ budget proposal that Governor Brown has promised, and I applaud and support the general direction the Governor is taking," said Bonilla. "Focusing on the core functions of government, increasing funding for K-12 education while providing flexibility for local school districts, and stronger investment in higher education and financial support for needy students."
State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) also praised the governor's budget.
“Governor Brown’s announcement today of a budget with a surplus and increases in public education spending is a welcome sign of our state’s improving fiscal status,” Senator Mark DeSaulnier said. “I have seen firsthand as Democratic legislators have voted to make tough cuts to restore fiscal order. With our budget deficit closed, it is time to begin reinvesting in the most vital programs in our state, paying down our debt, and continuing to rebuild a stronger post-recession California. As we begin to pay down our debt and reinvest in critical programs, we must do so in a strategic and thoughtful manner. 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.”
State Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis), whose district includes part of central Contra Costa County, also supported the governor's budget plan.
“I agree with the governor’s cautious approach with this year’s budget. While the governor was successful in persuading voters to pass Proposition 30 and has hopefully addressed the state’s structural deficit, we must continue to work to increase efficiency, transparency, and accountability throughout state government," siad Wolk. "That is the only way to restore the public’s confidence in the state’s ability to spend their tax dollars wisely."
Wolk also supported the governor's plan to strengthen the state's Enterprise Zone program, which is designed to encourage economic development.
The state Legislature still has to approve the governor's budget plan. Democrats now have two-third majorities in both the Assembly and state Senate.
The budget takes effect July 1.
You can see the entire budget proposal on the state financial office's website here.