California's 2016 Budget Approved by Brown, Lege

6/16/2015 4:33:00 PM, Nick Cahill
     SACRAMENTO (CN) - Less than 24 hours after receiving a budget bill from state lawmakers, Gov. Jerry Brown reached an agreement Tuesday with the Legislature on the 2016 budget as well calling for special sessions on infrastructure and health care funding.
     "This is a sound and well thought out budget," Brown said. "Our work never ends - we have to continue to work together in a very prudent and careful way."
     The Legislature submitted Brown an enlarged budget Monday afternoon that included an additional $749 million in general fund spending on social programs for a budget total of $117.5 billion. Brown, a Democrat, stuck largely to his conservative May budget proposal and eliminated the majority of the Legislature's expenditures, adding just $61 million for a general fund total of $115.4 billion.
     The 2016 budget includes $265 million toward creating additional 7,000 preschool slots and rate increases for providers, as well as $40 million in Medi-Cal funding for undocumented immigrant children. It also creates the state's first earned income tax credit program for low-income families.
     "This is probably the single-biggest new state anti-poverty program created in recent memory, it will make a real difference in the lives of working Californians," said Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins. "This is not a return to the bad old days of spending beyond our means."
     State Democrats have been clamoring for increased spending in the 2016 budget on social programs such as Medi-Cal access for undocumented immigrants, following tax estimates from the state Legislative Analyst Office that showed nearly $3 billion in additional tax revenue expectations.
     Brown went against his party's wishes and reverted to his May budget revision, saying increasing general fund spending based on tax estimates is a risky road and that the budget was based on a more conservative estimate.
     "Given the yo-yo quality of our finances, how money rushes in and rushes out, I think the steady consistency that conforming to the finance department projections is a good idea," Brown said.
     Democrats, the state's majority party, were forced to concede over $600 million in general fund spending from Monday's budget proposal.
     Lawmakers also announced two special sessions regarding funding for California's deteriorating infrastructure and under-funded health care system. Brown said the Legislature will work on ideas to improve highway and freeway systems that are crumbling from neglect by the state and federal governments.
     Assembly Republican Leader Kristen Olsen applauded Brown for not giving to the majority party's spending requests and basing the budget off "realistic revenue estimates."
     "State government should always budget like Californians do - based on what we know we will have to spend, not what we hope to earn," Olsen said.
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