Prelude to a Budget: Assembly Democrats release their 2014-15 budget priorities

17 Dec
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by Andrea Ball, J.D., CSBA Legislative Advocate

The Assembly Democrats released an outline of a 2014-15-budget proposal called “Blueprint for a Responsible Budget” on Dec. 11, just a month before the Gov. Jerry Brown is to release his budget proposal. The outline is organized around two themes: Ensuring Stability and Expanding Opportunity. It does not contain specific expenditures or funding levels; the proposals are to serve as guideposts throughout the budget process and will be updated and refined as additional fiscal information becomes available.

The outline proposes to use one-time funds to pay down pay down debts, deferrals and unfunded liabilities but doesn’t detail amounts or allocation. The major education proposals are to make transitional kindergarten universal for all 4-year-olds, strengthen early care programs for children up to 3 years old and wraparound care for children over 4 years old, and to increase funding for higher education. Preschool may also be a policy priority of at least some Senate Democrats too.

The Assembly Budget Subcommittees will hold hearings on all budget proposals, including the budget blueprint. The outline states that the Assembly will work with the Senate and the governor in crafting a final 2014-15 State Budget that reflects the priorities of the budget blueprint.

The Los Angeles Times quoted a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg as noting “there is much common ground between us on the approach and priorities that the Assembly Speakers outlined.”  Sen. Steinberg has been a long-time proponent of improving the quality of early education so it will be interesting to see how the universal transitional kindergarten proposal evolves.

Other articles quote a Brown administration spokesman as saying the governor’s priorities will be paying down long-term debt and building a budget reserve with the state’s anticipated surplus. The governor is to release his budget by Jan. 10.

The key elements of the outline are summarized below and the complete outline is available from the California State Assembly Democratic Caucus:

Blueprint for a Responsible Budget Summary

Ensuring Stability

  • Build reserves by $2 billion a year to $8 billion in 2016-17. Reserves include the projected balance of a new rainy day fund, which is to go to voters as a Constitutional Amendment in November 2014.
  • Smart use of one-time funds (don’t use for ongoing program costs):  pay down debts, deferrals and unfunded liabilities. Fund jobs investments that have one-time costs, such as infrastructure projects and small business loan guarantees.
  • Rein in prison housing costs.

Expanding Opportunity

  • Invest in early education: make transitional kindergarten universal for all 4-year-olds, strengthen early care programs for children 0-3 years old and wrap-around care for children over 4 years old.
  • Increase funding for community colleges, California State University and University of California to keep fees from growing, enable enrollment increases and improve the quality of educational programs; improve Cal Grants.
  • Improve economic condition of children in poverty by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and increasing the CalWORKs Earned Income Disregard to strengthen the impact of paychecks; create an additional food benefit for the poorest children enrolled in CalWORKs. Improve job training programs and provide a modest CalWORKs grant increase.
  • Improve access to health care including restoring a number of public health programs such as the Early Mental Health Initiative.
  • Fund jobs investments: Infrastructure investments with one-time funds, including clean energy, parks and schools. Other proposals include expanding job training and workforce development and improving business resources such as the small business loan guarantee program.

 

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