Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled a state budget for next fiscal year that is balanced and allocates more money for education.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Brown's $97 billion proposed budget for 2013-2014 has a $1 billion reserve, leading the governor to declare the state budget deficit has disappeared for the first time since the recession began.
Ralf Swenson, superintendent of the Grossmont Union High School District, said he is encouraged by the governor's budget, though he knows that changes can still be made.
"While I have not yet had the opportunity to read the budget proposal in detail, it appears that we will finally end the five-year spiral of consecutive budget reductions to K-12 education," Swenson said.
"I am interested in reading the specifics of the new funding model being proposed by the governor, and will also want to see how the allocations are being committed to both past budget deferrals and per-pupil distributions for the coming school year.
"Of special interest to the Grossmont Union High School District will be the impact of the LCFF (Local Control Funding Formula) on a high school district like ours with significant ROP and Adult Education programs. It also important to remind ourselves that this proposal will need to go through the political process in Sacramento, which often results in additions and deletions to the Governor's proposal."
A legislative analyst last fall had projected a $1.9 billion deficit, despite voters' approval in November of an income tax hike on high earners and a temporary hike in the sales tax.
An improving economy and higher tax revenues have erased that deficit.
Spending in the governor's 2013 budget would rise by 5 percent over the 2012-2013 budget, according to a Reuters report.
Nonetheless, the governor cautioned California cannot go back to previous spending levels. For example, Brown said he is unwilling to restore funding for some social programs that have been cut in recent years.
"It is best to maintain a very solid budget and a good reserve... or we'll go back to the boom and bust, borrow and spend," Brown was quoted by the Bee as saying.
The governor does recommend adding $125 million to both the state university and the state college system. As part of that, Brown wants colleges and universities to cap the number of classes students can take.
The governor also is recommending an additional $2.7 billion for local schools and community colleges, increasing the total education budget to $56 billion, the Bee reported.
As part of that extra funding, Brown is asking for a financial overhaul of the California school system, according to the Bee.
State Superintendent Tom Torlakson said he believes the governor is on the right track.
“The governor’s budget proposal keeps the promise we made to Californians who supported Proposition 30 and wisely begins to restore some of what our schools have lost. It will take years to bring our education system back to financial health and I applaud the governor for beginning that work in earnest," said Torlakson.
He added, “I admire the governor’s determination to move forward with an overhaul of California’s confusing system of school finance and I share his desire to direct more help to students and schools with the greatest needs. At the same time, I remain concerned about the fragile fiscal state of so many school districts and preserving state priorities. I look forward to examining details of the governor’s proposal and working closely with the education community throughout this challenging process.”
State Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) said she is pleased the governor has increased spending for education programs.
"Schools and colleges have been drastically affected by devastating budget cutbacks in recent years," said Hancock. "It is vital to California’s future that we continue to invest in our children."
Hancock, the chair of the Budget Subcommittee on Corrections, Public Safety and the Judiciary, added she also agrees with the governor's plan to reduce spending on incarceration.
"We’ve made great strides over the past two years to reduce population in our prisons and improve the quality of medical and mental health treatment. We need to maintain that commitment while focusing our budget priorities on educating our young people," she said.
Hancock added, "I am, however, very concerned that we don’t restrict access to our court system by further budget cuts. The courts are not just another state department. They are the third branch of constitutional government and it’s vital that they have the funds to function effectively. In recent years, courthouses throughout the state have been forced to close their doors and reduce hours. This cannot continue. They must be adequately funded."
State Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) released the following statement in response to the budget proposal early Thursday afternoon:
“After several years of crippling budget shortfalls, California is now on its way to reaching fiscal health. Thanks to California voters’ support of Proposition 30, this budget begins to reverse the devastating cuts experienced by our K-12 schools. Community Colleges, UC, and CSU would also see significant increases.
"I am pleased the Governor has prioritized using funds from Proposition 39, in a way that mirrors my legislation AB 39, so we fund energy efficiency and renewable energy for classrooms and help our schools cut the cost of their utility bills.
"The Governor’s proposed budget will put California on solid ground to invest in education, increase jobs and contribute to a growing economy. I look forward to the Legislature’s thorough review of the details in the months ahead.”
Skinner's newly redistricted 15th Assembly District includes, among other communities, El Cerrito, Kensington, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Piedmont and parts of Oakland.
The state Legislature still has to approve the governor's budget plan. Democrats now have two-third majorities in both the Assembly and state Senate.
The budget takes effect July 1.
You can see the entire budget proposal on the state financial office's website here.