Nearly a month before Gov. Jerry Brown releases his budget for fiscal year 2014-15, which begins July 1, Assembly Democrats offered their “2014-15 Blueprint for a Responsible Budget.”
“By following this budget blueprint we can ensure fiscal stability in California by establishing a real rainy-day fund and building the state’s budget reserve,” Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) said in a statement accompanying the blueprint. “We can also expand opportunity by making prudent investments in job creation, job training, early childhood education and higher education. With the budget process officially beginning next month, we believe it is helpful to the people of California to show some of the key priorities that will be shaping the discussion.”
The first principle, which Assembly Budget Committee Chair Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Pérez set forth, was to ensure budget stability. Along with the Legislative Analyst’s Office, they would build budget reserves to $8 billion by 2017.
The goals would be to “finally bring an end to the spend-and-slash, roller-coaster budgets that we’ve seen for the last 20 years,” Pérez said.
The blueprint also includes “smart use of one-time funds.” Rather than appropriate these non-recurring funds to ongoing programs, the legislators would use them to build the reserve and pay down debts, deferrals and unfunded liabilities.
As stability is being achieved, the blueprint does advocate investment in areas that will benefit the state’s residents and economy. “This plan addresses the needs of our poorest children, improves access to health care, and gets cap and trade revenues reinvested in our communities,” Pérez said.
The blueprint addresses both early education and higher education. For early education, the plan recommends making transitional kindergarten universal for all 4-year-olds and to give all children access to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs. It also recommends strengthening early care programs serving children under age 3 and wrap-around care for children over age 4.
The higher education proposals address increased funding for the state’s system from community colleges, to the State University system and the University of California. The intent would be to mitigate growing fees. Also, Cal Grants would be strengthened and award levels increased. The goal would be to increase access to higher educational opportunities.
To address child poverty, the plan proposes expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and increase Cal WORKS Earned Income Disregard to increase take-home pay for these families.
Health care is addressed through phases with Medi-Cal rate increases and by restoring previously cut programs in mental health, asthma public health and Black Infant Health programs.
The jobs creation proposals include expanding job-training programs, loan guarantees for the state’s small businesses to hire and expand, and one-time investments in clean energy, parks and school projects.
The budget blueprint will guide the Assembly as it works with the Senate and the governor in crafting the 2014-15 State Budget, according to Pérez. The blueprint will be updated and refined throughout the public subcommittee hearings and as updated fiscal information becomes available.
J.P. Crumrine can be reached at [email protected].