Gov. Jerry Brown released his proposed 2013-14 budget last week. The $97.7 billion budget is balanced and provides a $1 billion reserve for future years.

“California today is poised to achieve something that has eluded us for more than a decade — a budget that lives within its means, now and for many years to come,” the governor said in his budget message.

The proposed budget is about $4.7 billion more than the current year. Both the growth and the ability to be balanced is the result of state voters approving Proposition 30 in November’s election and a recovering economy.

The Governor’s budget projects about a $1 billion reserve at the end of the fiscal year. In November 2012, the Legislative Analyst projected a $1.9 deficit.

The difference is due to the governor’s higher revenue forecasts and anticipation of greater savings.

Governor’s budget request builds on the state budget approved in June 2011, which means it “keeps the cuts made last year and adds new ones.”

Specifically, the governor proposes $138.6 billion in general fund and special fund spending in 2013-14, up 4.5 percent from 2012-13. The administration forecasts that the state’s general fund budgetary balance will be $1 billion at the end of 2013-14 under the governor’s plan.

The budget contains major proposals in education, including a new formula for financing schools, and additional general fund resources for the public university systems. The package also presents options for expanding Medi-Cal under the federal health care reform law.

According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, “The state has reached a point where its underlying expenditures and revenues are roughly in balance. With the exception of education funding, the remainder of state general fund spending reflects a baseline budget. This means that state supported program and service levels established in 2012-13 generally continue ‘as is’ in 2013-14.”

Education, both K-12 and higher, will see additional funds this year compared to the reductions of previous budgets. The K-12 funding proposal is $41 billion, a $2.7 billion (nearly 5 percent) increase from this year. And state higher education programs will receive an additional $1.3 billion, a 13.6 percent increase.

From the 2007-08 fiscal year to 2011-12, state education funding declined $9.3 billion, from $56.6 billion to $47.3. Next year’s funding level is $56.2, nearly equal to the level six years ago.

“I’ll believe it when the check is available,” said skeptical Bill Sanborn, Hemet Unified School District trustee. “I just don’t know much about it, but anything would be helpful.”

However, Brown does propose to provide local districts more control over the use of the funds and to direct more money to districts with the more dire educational needs.

“School districts serving those students who have the greatest challenges will receive more generous increases — so that all students in California have the opportunity to succeed,” Brown said.

A new formula will allocate a portion of the funding to districts with a higher portion of English-language learners and students eligible for free or reduced price meals. The supplemental funding will increase a district’s base funding by about 35 percent when the portion of students in the English learners and economically disadvantaged groups exceeds 50 percent.

The state will encourage and expect student-to-teacher ratios of 24 to 1 in the K-3 grades, unless local districts choose not to comply because of local priorities.

Public Safety
General fund expenditures for the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection are reduced $50 million, to a total of $1.16 million. The vast majority of the department’s funding comes from the state general fund and federal reimbursement. However, the State Responsibility Area Fire Prevention Fee collections are still estimated to be between $84 and $89 million, according to CAL FIRE Director of Communications Janet Upton.

Some of CAL FIRE’s responsibilities will increase due to implementation of Senate Bill 1241, which requires local jurisdictions to ensure fire protection for future development within SRAs. The new law requires CAL FIRE to review local development plans to verify the local assurances. This will provide 65 positions and $11.7 million for the Department.

Some of the additional money will be used for fuel mitigation and inspections, Upton said.