jnbeaupre/flickrGov. Jerry Brown talks to the media in San Francisco.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed an $85.9 billion budget today, bringing to a close a month that featured a veto of the first simple-majority vote budget to come out of the Legislature in decades and a subsequent decision to cut off lawmakers' pay.
The budget, which establishes a roughly $500 million reserve fund, relies on $4 billion in projected windfall tax revenues – the bulk of which come from the state's wealthiest residents – and means deeper cuts to higher education and public safety. If the additional money does not come through, a series of "trigger cuts" will be initiated later this year that will further slash funding to several areas starting in January.
While he supported the bulk of the budget package that Democratic legislators presented to him late Tuesday, Brown exercised a number of line-item vetoes amounting to $23.8 million of the general fund. Among them is a more than $22.8 million cut to lower-level trial courts, as well as the elimination of the California Postsecondary Education Commission and the California Longitudinal Teacher Integrated Data Education System, or CALTIDES.
“This is an honest but painful budget that returns California’s General Fund spending to levels unseen since the 1930s," Brown said in a statement. "We’ve cut our deficit by $15 billion and achieved financial balance this year. This is a huge step forward. But California’s long-term stability depends on our willingness to continue to pay down debt and live within our means."
Among the hardest hit this year were the UC and CSU systems, which each took additional $150 million cuts on top of $500 million in reductions earlier this year. Medi-Cal spending was slashed by $1.5 billion, while the court system must now do without $350 million in state funding. In addition, the plan calls for diverting $1.7 billion from local redevelopment agencies and uses billions in deferred payments to K-12 education.
Although the budget is "balanced" in the sense that it closes the current $9.6 billion deficit, it does nothing to address the state's ongoing structural deficit, which is estimated to be more than $35 billion. Ana Matosantos, director of the Department of Finance, said at a briefing today that while the budget did not fix the problem, it avoided adding to it, something she said the June 15 budget Brown vetoed would have.
"There was a preferred package, but it didn't have the Republican support it needed," Matosantos said of the stalemate between Brown and Republican lawmakers over putting temporary tax extensions on the November ballot. Matosantos referred to the trigger cuts as a "built-in suspenders" approach, adding that the budget was more a function of available resources than it was the optimal plan moving forward. Lawmakers will need to close roughly $5 billion of the structural deficit next June.
While Brown has to yet to sign all of the trailer bills associated with the budget, Matosantos said the plan met certification under Proposition 58 when it was approved and subsequently delivered by the Legislature. Today is the earliest a budget has been signed in five years, and the first such passage since voters enacted Proposition 25 last year, which gives legislators the ability to pass a package with a simple majority.