With California's budget deadline a week away, Democratic state lawmakers are using higher revenue estimates to bolster their argument for spending more on social programs for the poor despite Gov. Jerry Brown's cost concerns.
The Legislature is finalizing a proposed spending plan that's roughly $2 billion higher than Brown's $115 billion spending plan. The increase is based on upbeat revenue assumptions from a nonpartisan budget analyst.
Democrats control both houses of the Legislature and have made it their priority this year to improve working conditions for poor and minority Californians. They want higher state spending on health care, welfare, child care and higher education, among other things.
Democrats say their plan carefully balances the need to end recession-era cuts while maintaining fiscal stability. But the Brown administration is warning against committing the state to ongoing spending that would have to be cut during the next economic downturn.
“They are aware of the administration's concern with using the higher revenue forecast that's built on the most volatile source of revenue there is, which is capital gains,” H.D. Palmer, the governor's finance spokesman, said of Democrats in the Legislature.
Lawmakers face a June 15 deadline to approve and send a budget to Brown, a fellow Democrat. He could use his veto power to limit spending.
Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, both want to boost education funding from pre-school to college; end a 10 percent payment cut to doctors and providers in Medi-Cal, the state's health insurance program for the poor; and give back a 7 percent cut to an in-home service program for seniors and the disabled to stay out of nursing homes while allowing those workers to receive overtime pay.
Democrats are also backing Brown's proposal for a targeted $380 million earned income tax credit that his administration said would help as many as 2 million Californians.
The Assembly and Senate have proposed increasing child care slots for low-income, working families and increasing pay for child care workers. Democratic leaders also support sending additional funds to the University of California and California State University systems.
However, some of those details have yet to be worked out between the two houses, specifically whether the state will phase out a new college scholarship program or if child care funding should be restructured within the state's education-funding formula known as Proposition 98.
Education groups such as the teachers union oppose the shift out of fear it would take money away from classrooms.
A budget committee with representatives from both houses is meeting this week on whether to defund the Middle Class Scholarship program following revelations that recipients include nearly 1,100 students with family assets worth more than $1 million.
Democrats in the Senate want to phase out the program and use the money to expand enrollment, course offerings and support services at CSU campuses.
Assembly leaders, however, are eager to preserve the popular program and have offered to place stricter limits on the scholarship.
The governor and legislative leaders announced Friday that they would were unable to reach agreement on how to spend money collected from the state's landmark effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Taking the cap-and-trade funding out of the budget will give them more time to negotiate a spending plan.