Gov. Jerry Brown with Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley. Photo courtesy of Assembly Democratic Caucus

At a ceremony in San Diego on Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed what he described as a  “not perfect” budget, but is a sign of California’s fiscal progress during the past few years.

Brown — joined at the ceremony by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley — signed California’s $156 billion budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

“What this budget shows is balance, paying down debts, putting almost $10 billion into public schools, creating a rainy day fund and starting to really tie up and shore up the teachers’ retirement fund,” Brown said.

He said it also was a sign that the state government was working, and that the majority could actually govern, with cooperation from the minority party.

The visit to San Diego was the third during the budget cycle for Brown, who was in town on the day his budget proposal was released in January, and last month when he issued revisions. He said he wanted to sign the budget in San Diego out of respect for Atkins, who took over leadership of the Legislature’s lower chamber last month.

The state spending plan for the fiscal year starting July 1 includes a $1.6 billion “Rainy Day Fund” and $142 million for drought-response measures, such as firefighting, water management, wildlife preservation and food assistance.

Last month, the governor reached an agreement with the Legislature on the reserve fund that would:

  • require the state to bank large increases in capital gains revenues, which are the most volatile form of tax income;
  • require supplemental payments to accelerate the payoff of debts and liabilities;
  • raise the dollar amount of the rainy day fund to 10 percent of the general fund revenue;
  • allow withdrawals to be made from the fund when needed during recessions, within prescribed limits; and
  • create a reserve account for education to avoid future funding cuts.

He said the fund would be “untouchable” while he was in office, until it was needed due to poor economic conditions.

Additional agreements with legislative leaders last week will add at least $180 million in overtime pay for health-care workers who provide care to the disabled and elderly in their homes, direct a quarter of cap-and-trade revenue toward construction of a high-speed rail line and expand preschool opportunities for economically disadvantaged children.

“No budget is perfect, and no one got everything that they wanted,” Atkins said. “But with this budget, that ensures stability and expands opportunity, we have a chance to put the great recession even further behind us.”

The general fund, for discretionary spending, will be almost $108 billion.

Brown’s Republican opponent in the November election, former Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari, said the budget is a “giveaway for special interests paid for by working families,” despite the “nation’s highest poverty rate” and a “failing” education system.

“Higher gas prices for his pet High Speed Rail project, a last minute tax break for a favored industry and micro-managing local school spending from Sacramento — Brown’s budget priorities represent more of the same back-room dealing from Sacramento,” Kashkari said. “Unfortunately for the millions of workers struggling to find good jobs, kids stuck in failing schools and families trying to make ends meet, this budget does nothing to provide a better future through economic opportunity for all.”

After signing the budget, Brown traveled to Los Angeles for a function with Latino legislators.

— City News Service

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