Local legislators laud Brown’s budget

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Gov. Jerry Brown released a budget last week that he says fosters fiscal responsibility and continued economic improvement in the financially beleaguered state. And this year, the conservative legislators representing the Indian Wells Valley are supporting the plan laid out by the Democratic governor.

The proposed budget reports a windfall and other financial indicators that point to a recovering state economy.

“The governor has proposed a budget that includes a number of important priorities,” said state Sen. Jean Fuller. “In particular, I was pleased with the proposed increase in education funding, the set-aside reserve for economic uncertainties and the debt reduction.”

Fuller said she hopes to see issues relating to water infrastructure and liabilities for pension and health care similarly addressed as legislators enter into the discussion.

“During this process, I will pay close attention to ensure these priorities, among others, are included in the final budget that is sent back to the governor,” Fuller said.

“Taxpayers should be pleased to see that the governor has finally recognized the importance of starting to pay down the state’s debts,” said Grove. “My Republican colleagues and I have been calling for this type of fiscal responsibility for years.”

However, Grove said it is not enough to chip away at the burgeoning debt. She said the state needs to aggressively reform the policies that continue to yield the structural deficit between revenues and expenditures.

“We still have to contend with the estimated $350 billion dollars in unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities owed to state workers.” She said what Brown proposes to pay toward that covers only about 3 percent of that obligation.

She also criticized some of Brown’s proposal to use money from cap-and-trade auctions to shore up funding for the high-speed rail project. She said that money would be better spent trying to retain jobs and revitalize the flagging economy.

With Democratic super majorities in both houses of the state legislature, the challenge for conservative leaders has been inclusion in the process. When majority leaders unveiled the 2013-14 budget for approval last June, Republicans complained that conservatives were kept out of the drafting process, and were not allowed to read the budget — thousands of pages including the rider bills — until a few hours before the vote.

When Brown was sworn into office in January 2011, California faced an immediate budget shortfall of $26.6 billion, and a structural deficiency of some $20 billion. The governor said that in the intervening years the state has shifted away its reliance on “gimmicks, borrowing and deferrals” to decreased that $20 billion gap.

“Three years later, the state is now on its most stable fiscal footing in more than a decade,” according to Brown’s budget summary. The summary also cites improved economic conditions and a windfall of some $4 billion.

“With a decade of intractable deficits behind us, California is poised to take advantage of the recovering economy and the tens of thousands of jobs now being created each month,” wrote Brown in his introduction.

He also cautioned the legislature against obligating the gains from the recent windfall toward ongoing expenses. In the face of the state’s liabilities, “our current budget surplus is rather modest. That is why wisdom and prudence should be the order of the day.”

The governor’s revised budget will be released mid-May. The both houses of the state legislature are obligated to adopt the budget by June 15, or submit to a reduction in their pay.

Story First Published: 2014-01-15