SACRAMENTO -- The Democratic-controlled Legislature on Tuesday set up a much-anticipated confrontation with Gov. Jerry Brown by pushing to restore safety net programs and altering his education finance plan.
Using the Legislative Analyst's Office's forecast, which has the state taking in $3.2 billion more than the Brown administration predicted, the Senate and Assembly proposed more aggressive spending in separate plans that will be hashed out in a conference committee later this week.
Both chambers are gearing up for final action on the budget as the June 15 deadline looms.
The Senate and Assembly budgets would go about $2 billion beyond the $96.3 billion spending target that Brown proposed when he unveiled his revised budget blueprint two weeks ago. Brown has called for restraint, saying that he doesn't want to restore programs based on what could be a one-time windfall of taxes paid by wealthy Californians who sought to avoid higher federal taxes by cashing out investments at the end of 2012.
The governor's office immediately warned that legislative Democrats could take the state down the path that led to the same exploding deficits they've just begun to tame.
"We don't believe you should have a budget based on a forecast that has a high reliance on volatile capital gains," said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance. "California can't repeat mistakes of the past by committing the state to a higher level of spending than the state can sustain."
Advocates for the poor said it's about time the state started spending more on people who are still struggling through the effects of the Great Recession.
"It's really a welcome change that we're starting to invest in people again," said Mike Herald of the Western Center on Law and Poverty.
Legislative Democrats, as expected, also are seeking to discard a central feature of Brown's school finance reform: the extra money that would exclusively be used for poor and disadvantaged students. The Senate eliminates the $1.9 billion "concentration grants" that would go to a small number of school districts in which more than half of the students are in poverty, learning English or are foster children.
Instead, Senate Democrats propose $2.3 billion on base education spending -- $471 million more than Brown's proposal -- for poor students, but it would be spread throughout all school districts. Legislators also would delay implementing Brown's new local-control funding formula by a full year.
Senate Democrats, however, propose just about the same overall spending for K-14 schools as Brown -- $57.4 billion.
"What you have here is a setting the stage of 'how do we meet the needs of poor kids?' and narrowing the gap between districts that perceive themselves as losing and those that are seen as winning," said Kevin Gordon, a school lobbyist. "Now, the negotiations start. It's really down to nuances, though those are big-ticket nuances."
Senate Democrats also seek to put more money into a rainy-day fund -- $360 million more than Brown's proposed $1.1 billion reserve. They also seek to pay down past school deferrals by $1.7 billion more than Brown. But if the legislative analyst's rosy projections don't materialize, those school deferral payments would be put off again.
Under the Senate Democrats' plan, the state would spend $530 million more than Brown in safety net and other programs, including a restoration of dental services for 3 million adult Medi-Cal recipients for $130 million. Another $142 million would go toward one-time infrastructure spending in the mental-health system for such needs as crisis residential-treatment beds. In addition, $100 million would be spent to keep courtrooms open and $100 million for restoration of services for children with autism as well as for nursing homes that had faced cuts and family planning services.
The Assembly Democrats' budget proposes $200 million more in CalWORKs stipends, in addition to adding $100 million to the courts to avoid closures, $200 million to establish a middle-class scholarship to reduce student fees at UC and CSU by 40 percent, starting in the spring semester of the 2013-14 school year.
Assembly Democrats also propose adding back child care ($250 million) and adult education ($630 million) into school funding.
"Where the governor ends up landing, who knows?" said Herald of the Western Center on Law and Poverty. "He's been very vocal in wanting to squirrel money away, and my suspicion is the Assembly and Senate plans will end up taking haircuts. But I don't think they'll go completely bald."
LEGISLATURE GOES ITS OWN WAY
Here are highlights of the budgets released Tuesday by the state Senate and Assembly:
Restores dental benefits for 3 million adult Medi-Cal recipients ($130 million).
Targets money to add spending in the mental-health system for such needs as crisis residential-treatment beds ($142 million).
Keeps courtrooms open ($100 million).
Restores services for nursing homes, family planning and children with autism ($100 million).
Adds $360 million more to the rainy-day fund than Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed $1.1 billion reserve.
Pays down past school deferrals by $1.7 billion more than Brown's proposal, though that would evaporate if expected revenues don't materialize.
Eliminates Brown's proposed $1.9 billion "concentration grants" that would go to a small number of school districts in which more than half of students live in poverty, are learning English or are foster children. Instead, $2.3 billion would go to base education spending -- $471 million more than Brown's proposal -- for poor students, but it would be spread throughout all school districts. Legislators also would delay implementing Brown's new local-control funding formula by a full year.
CalWORKs recipients with children would receive stipend increases ($200 million).
Keeps courtrooms open ($100 million in 2013-14; $200 million in 2014-15).
Establishes a middle-class scholarship to reduce student fees at UC and CSU by 40 percent, starting in the spring semester of the 2013-14 school year ($200 million).
Puts child care ($250 million) and adult education ($630 million) back into K-14 school funding.
Adds preschool slots ($100 million).
Increases reserve from $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion.
Pays down school deferrals by $1.2 billion.
Sources: California Senate, Assembly budgets