Brown unveils May revise

Conservatives criticize shifting of critical funds in favor of support for special interests

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled his revised budget proposal last week to mixed reception, falling largely along party lines, as the June 15 deadline for budget approval nears.

The governor said that the budget shortfall — originally projected at $1.6 billion in January — has been reduced to $400 million in the latest proposal.

Brown, who has been embroiled in a high-profile ideological debate with President Donald Trump’s administration, said the California budget reflects the state’s focus to “counteract the effects of poverty,” citing the scheduled increase of the minimum wage, an expansion of healthcare coverage to undocumented Californians and a cost-of-living adjustment to select welfare programs.

But critics, particularly among conservatives, have expressed concerns that Brown is “robbing Peter to pay Paul” while costs of living are spiraling out of control for the working class.

“The fundamental problem with our state’s budget is that it continues to divert to the General Fund designated funds meant to fund specific programs that were promised to taxpayers,” said Assemblyman Vince Fong.

State Republicans say that Brown’s practice of funneling revenues from education, health care and transportation to fund pet projects and special interest programs is only increasing the financial burden on taxpayers.

Conservatives in Sacramento have been rendered somewhat insignificant in the budget discussions, since the two-thirds majority secured by Democrats in the November election make it unnecessary for either house of the legislature to attract Republican votes in order to pass the budget.

“As the legislature gets their turn to pile on new and expanded government spending to the governor’s revised budget, I challenge my colleagues to make affordability a higher priority in the state’s budget and resist the urge to grow government,” said State Sen. Jean Fuller.

“Since the start of the legislation session, taxpayers have already been saddled with historic tax increases, threatened with higher tuition costs and warned to prepare for higher home energy costs,” she said.

“Give taxpayers a break. Spend their money efficiently and send the governor a more effective budget that takes into account the rising cost to live and work in California.”

Fong said that transportation taxes paid by motorists, tobacco tax revenue intended to improve Medicaid access and the Prop 30 tax increase sold as a means to fund education have all been swept into the General Fund without accountability on how it will be spent.

“Without real budget transparency, Sacramento will continue to sell false promises to Californians and leave them wondering where their tax dollars go as they are burdened with more tax and fee increases every year, thereby making it unaffordable for them to live and work here.”

Story First Published: 2017-05-19