California legislators pass budget

Conservative leaders criticize continued overspending

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Both houses of the California legislature passed a $156.4-billion state budget — at the 11th hour — that has been hailed by state leaders as a compromise for the economically recovering state. The lack of support from Republican legislators, and outright criticism from local leaders, indicate that conservatives are unhappy with the final product.

Members of both the state Senate and Assembly, which narrowly missed the fiscal penalty, passed a package that diverts additional money to the reserves while increasing funding to social programs, taking steps to increase contributions to teacher pensions and continuing funding for the state’s high-speed rail project.

State Sen. Jean Fuller said that California leaders missed an opportunity to pay down the state debt — which is many times larger than the general fund — and to invest in infrastructure.

“I am concerned this budget is too focused on short-term programmatic government expansion rather than long-term investment and fiscal responsibility,” said Fuller.

Assemblywoman Shannon Grove also noted that Republican members were given only 48 hours to read, debate and vote on the 704-page budget.

“The Democrats congratulated themselves on Sunday for being prudent stewards of the state’s money simply because they passed the budget on time and took a few chips out of the state’s mountain of debt,” said Grove.

She cited among her concerns the $250 million designated toward the high-speed rail project — which has been challenged by courts, and has yet to identify a ridership that would sustain the investment.

She also challenged the claim that the budget protected education, when a teacher-union led effort to prevent school districts from saving more than 6 percent of their annual budgets was implemented, and existing debts to school districts was ignored.

“In a state that struggles with high unemployment, a lousy business climate and record levels of poverty, you would think that California would focus its budget priorities on improving the job climate,” said Grove. She said the budget continues to spend money on wasteful projects, fails to deal seriously with debt and does not address policies that discourage fiscal responsibility and business growth.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy also weighed in on Gov. Jerry Brown’s continued support of the high-speed rail project.

“Californians are interested in a growing economy, quality education for all, and a return to fiscal sanity in Sacramento,” said McCarthy.

“Time and again, the high-speed rail boondoggle has proven to be an unfeasible project that will put undue and damaging pressure on our state budget, ultimately hurting taxpayers.

“Governor Brown’s persistence shows he is more interested in protecting his legacy than communities that will be uprooted by its intrusion. As long as I am in Congress, I will do whatever I can to ensure that not one dollar of federal funds is directed to this project.”

Story First Published: 2014-06-18