Brown targets education, cap-and-trade money

Gov. Brown and aides head to a Capitol briefing on his latest state budget. (Photo: AP/Rich Pedroncelli)

Jerry Brown kept the purse strings tight on the University of California, but proposed an $8 billion boost for public education and wants to spend $1 billion of cap-and-trade auction money on high-speed rail, transit and related projects.

In the first budget of his last term in office, the Democratic governor offered a $164 billion spending plan — $113 billion of it in the General Fund, the state’s coffer of sales, income and business taxes — for the 2015-16 fiscal year that begins July 1. The 270-page summary of Brown’s plan can be viewed here.

The document projects an increase in tax receipts – about $4 billion worth – through the middle of next year. Revenue flowing to the state already is coming in above projections, an indication that the state continues its economic recovery from the recession.

But despite the improved revenue, Brown said the budget was “precariously balanced,” and noted that temporary income and sales taxes approved by voters in 2012 as Proposition 30 – a measure he advocated in order to jump start the state’s finances — will start to phase out next year.
“It’s very tight, it’s going to be a difficult next four years,” he told reporters in the Capitol.

California’s K-14 public education was a big winner in Brown’s draft budget, while UC got less than it sought.

The university’s regents, pending a final decision, earlier voted to raise tuition by up to 28 percent over five years, a decision backed by UC President Janet Napolitano but opposed by Brown.

Earlier in the week, in an apparent reference to UC’s tuition hike, Brown denounced “making students the default financiers of education” at the high-speed rail ceremonies in Fresno.

On Friday, Brown proposed a $120 million increase for UC, the amount he offered earlier, but far less than sought by UC. The California State University, meanwhile, will get a $145 million increase.

Brown and Napolitano are heading an advisory group aimed at working out the differences between the administration and the university, and plan to present a report at the January meeting of the UC Board of Regents.

Brown noted his own parsimony and views about changes needed within the university system, but said, “I will not inflict that on UC as my guiding principle.”

The draft budget estimates plans to spend about $1 billion in revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade auction program, with about a fourth of that money — $250 million – going to the bullet-train project. The amount is a significant increase over the $870 million in the current budget.

The auctions, sanctioned by the state as part of its effort to cut climate-changing greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020, involve the sale of allowances that allow companies to continue to operate while they ratchet down on carbon emissions.

Brown also said he wants to sit down with the state’s public labor unions and negotiate the costs of retirees’ health care to save money. He said he preferred negotiation to legislation.

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