By Tim Hunt
The last year of some fiscal restraint in Sacramento?Uploaded: Jun 12, 2018
Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders cut their final budget deal last week and both houses of the Legislature are set to vote this week to meet the June 15 deadline for budget submission. If they miss the deadline, their pay is docked—that’s proven plenty of incentive to hit it.
The governor’s revised budget in May showed a budget surplus of almost $9 billion, money the governor proposed saving in the Rainy Day fund and using for one-time expenses. The general fund is $137.6 billion so saving all the surplus would amount to less than 10 percent. Some well-operated local cities have 50 percent or more of their operating funds in various reserve accounts. And, remember, when Brown took office the deficit was $27 billion.
The deal the governor agreed to drop several spending proposals that liberals were backing including health care and tax credits for illegal immigrants; expanded tax credit for low-income renters and expansion of full-day kindergarten.
With plenty of opposition from water agencies, a tax on users also died.
As Brown has demanded since January, a big chunk of money, $16 billion, will be saved in reserve funds. Both university systems also will receive more money than Brown proposed in January that will eliminate possible tuition increases.
The biggest piece of the budget will continue to go to funding for k-12 education and community colleges. That will total $78.4 billion, up from $47.3 in 2011-12. The governor has backed a huge investment in public education that included a new funding formula that pumped more money to districts charged with educating second-language or economically disadvantaged children. By all accounts, that has been an atrocious failure. About 60 percent of students in those categories are not reading or doing math at grade level.
Lots and lots of money for a dismal outcome. That’s one of the reasons that here’s hoping that Marshall Tuck, who has turned challenging schools around through charter schools, wins the state Superintendent of Education job. The position is a bully pulpit because the Legislature and the governor control the purse strings. That said, the state needs an independent thinker who doesn’t owe his election to the California Teachers Association. The CTA, year-in and year-out, spends the most money of any interest group to elect legislators—all Democrats.
It backed incumbent Tom Torlakson who defeated Tuck four years ago and is termed out. The CTA’s choice this time is Assemblyman Tony Thurmond of Richmond. Tuck is backed by a trio of billionaires who advocate charter schools so it’s likely to be a high-spending campaign come the fall.
This is likely to be the last year that any fiscal restraint is found in Sacramento. Watch out if the progressive Gavin Newsom, who is backing single-payer state-funded health care, wins the governor’s chair. Conserving the taxpayers’ money will not occur to him.
One more thought: the $4 billion parks and water bond on the June 5 ballot passed easily. There’s an $8 billion bond water and parks bond coming up in November. Selling bonds to be paid over 30 years almost doubles the cost. Why not simply pay cash, particularly given the crushing unfunded public employee pension funds that are going to continue to swallow a greater percentage of county, city and school district operating funds.