Senator: governor's budget gets state to more 'realistic' spending priorities

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Gov. Jerry Brown's $180 billion 2017-18 state budget blueprint contains proposals that seem to put California's finances on a stable path going forward, a Riverside County lawmaker said today, as the state braces for changes at the federal level.

``I applaud the governor for recognizing that we cannot afford to keep spending at current levels if we are to protect public safety and keep providing vital lifesaving services for people truly in need," Sen. Jeff Stone,
R-La Quinta, said in response to the budget submitted by the governor. The change in Washington, D.C., will have a real and material impact on our revenues, and the state needs to be realistic in its budgeting,'' the
senator said. ``We face a multibillion-dollar gap in federal funding, and the state needs to be responsible enough to plan for a substantial loss of federal dollars."

In his letter to the Legislature, Brown warned that the ``surging tide of revenue increases that we enjoyed the past few years appears to have turned.'' "We now face a budget deficit of $2 billion,'' he wrote. ``While this
amount pales in comparison to the $27 billion deficit we faced in 2011, it demands our attention. Small deficits can quickly mushroom into large ones if not promptly eliminated.''

Brown said his proposed budget seeks to curtail ``planned spending increases'' while continuing to boost funds for K-14 education and social programs.

The budget plan calls for a $1.15 billion allocation to the state's Rainy Day Fund, bringing the balance to $7.9 billion at the end of the 2017-18 fiscal year. The amount is just under two-thirds of the constitutional target -- 10 percent of all tax revenues -- but would still provide a cushion if the state's financial condition turns sour due to a recession or other developments, Brown said.\

Spending growth would be kept in check to the tune of $3.2 billion, thanks to budgetary adjustments and ``recapturing unspent allocations from 2016,'' according to the plan.

Brown said K-14 spending should be allowed to reach $73.5 billion in the next fiscal year -- 55 percent above the level in 2011-12.

The governor supports an expansion in Medi-Cal spending, as well as infusions for the state earned income tax credit, Supplemental Security Income, CalWorks and childcare programs.

Brown is requesting ``urgency legislation'' to extend the state's cap-and-trade program, under which oil companies, fuel refiners, transporters and other entities are required to purchase credits, or offsets, to reduce their so-called carbon footprint.

The program was established under AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, and has been blamed by critics for higher gas prices. Supporters argue that it's contributing to cleaner air.

President-elect Donald Trump's platform to crack down on illegal immigration and slash energy regulations have elicited criticism from the governor and Democratic lawmakers, but Stone hopes for a friendlier atmosphere.

``The answer to our structural budget deficit is to grow the economy by creating more good-paying jobs, and my hope is that Democrats and Republicans can come together to work with the White House and the Congress to make sure California can be a place where businesses feel comfortable locating and
expanding," he said.

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