Brown’s final budget projects $6B surplus

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Brown’s final budget  projects $6B surplusAs Gov. Jerry Brown is poised to exit office next January at the close of his second (and final) eight-year term, his last budget proposal projects a $6.1-billion surplus for the coming fiscal year — hailed as a massive achievement compared to the $26-billion deficit he inherited in 2011.

Brown points to a strong economy, along with hefty tax increases passed under his administration, as key influences in the unexpected windfall. While most of that money will be socked away in the “rainy day” fund he helped create in 2014, local legislators are concerned about the impact that rising taxes, fees and mandates will have on the longterm health of the small-business sector.

“California taxpayers bear an enormous cost to support state government, and they should expect their contributions to be spent wisely and responsibly,” said state Sen. Jean Fuller.

She and other Republicans are calling for the additional revenues to be invested in the health and safety of neighborhoods and an acceleration of debt repayment, in addition to the proposed increase in reserves.

“We have an extraordinary opportunity to limit the debt and pension burden we have bestowed on the next generation, while increasing investment to local government priorities that mostly directly impact the daily lives of all their residents.

“It is my hope the majority party will take this opportunity as seriously as my Republican colleagues and use these unexpected resources wisely and responsibly.”

Assemblyman Vince Fong, who led last year’s opposition to the historic gas-tax increase with a plan that invested existing funds into roadways without the hike, renewed pressure on the state to fulfill its obligation to taxpayers.

“In the next year we are expected to see $19 billion in surplus tax revenue,” said Fong.

“By dedicated just half of those surplus dollars to transportation infrastructure, we would be funding transportation at higher amounts than the entire gas-tax increase that California drivers will be paying this year.

“The state’s historic surplus in revenue clearly shows that we do not have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. Taxpayers work hard for their income — we should work just as hard to protect it and allow them to keep more of it.”

The California School Boards Association acknowledged Brown for delivering promised investment in the Local Control Funding Formula two years ahead of schedule.

According to California School Boards Association President Mike Walsh, this $3-billion increase will help schools grapple with rising costs that are eroding the gains made under LCFF.

Still, Walsh reminded the state that California is currently ranked 41st in the nation in per-pupil funding, and unacceptably “last or next-to-last in nearly every school staffing metric.”

State officials noted that planning for the 2018-19 budget cycle has been particularly challenging in light of the political volatility — particularly between the state and federal administrations. After years of recovery, many are predicting another imminent recession for California.

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Story First Published: 2018-01-12