California Lawmakers Strike Budget Deal

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – California Democrats and Gov. Jerry Brown announced this morning that a budget deal has been reached, which legislators have until Thursday to approve.

“This budget keeps California on a sound fiscal path and continues to support struggling families and make investments in our schools,” Gov. Brown said in a statement. “We’ve come together on this balanced and progressive budget and I’m confident that we can do the same to extend our critical cap-and-trade program.”

The cap-and-trade program, recently praised by Chinese officials when Gov. Brown visited their country, is an initiative to lower greenhouse gases in the state.

However, additions to the program are absent from the budget. The legislature has until 2020 to extend the controversial environmental policy.

Still, the deal boasts many other successes.

Commitments to the fiscally responsible Rainy Day Fund will total $1.8 billion during the year, allowing the state a total of $8.5 billion in funds to address uncertain events and disasters.

The budget proposes vastly expanding California’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a rebate that assists low-income working families. Last year, nearly 400,000 families claimed the credit. The budget will expand the income ranges to include about 1 million Californians.

Funding for public education continues to rebound, and includes $3.1 billion for K-8 schools and $14.5 billion in general funds for higher education.

Infrastructure also gets a boost, as $2.8 billion will be used to address repairing roads and strengthening bridges and underpasses. A trailer bill was also added to gain support of the budget funds public transportation extensions from Silicon Valley to San Francisco.

“This state budget will keep California strong, protect our fiscal stability and empower our communities at a time when Washington is determined to undermine them,” Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, said in a statement. “This budget makes historic investments in healthcare, education, and childcare, and lays down a multi-billion dollar investment to start fixing our roads and infrastructure. This is how government works – by the people and for the people.”

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, said in a statement that the budget compromise helps all Californians and presents smart solutions.

“This is a budget that does things for people, not to people. It is a combination of fiscal responsibility, including the biggest reserves in state history, major spending improvements to fight poverty and improve education, and significant reforms stemming from our strong oversight of the Board of Equalization and the University of California,” said Rendon.

The deal doesn’t come without surprises. Critical audits ushered in two significant changes, while another smacks of political power playing.

The Board of Equalization will be drastically slashed, with the majority of workers transferred to a new bureaucracy overseen by the governor’s office. Board members will be appointed rather than elected.

The budget will also remove authority from the University of California President’s Office to manage its own funding after a recent state audit discovered it had squirreled away $175 million in undisclosed funds. The legislature will now fund the Office of the President separately from the rest of the UC system.

In a move condemned by many Republicans, Democratic lawmakers added a bill that would delay recall elections in Los Angeles. Many say this move would aid the party in retaining its supermajority.

The bill comes in response to a petition achieving the required 31,000 signatures that  triggered a special election against state Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton. The added proposal puts off the election, giving the party a better opportunity to fight the public challenge.

“The Democrats know the gas tax is toxic and Newman will likely lose,” Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes, R-Yucca Valley, told the Los Angeles Times, referring to Newman’s support of a controversial California tax. “They [Democrats] control everything in California and need to rig the system to protect their political power.”

 

 

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