A new report from the California Budget Project (CBP) examines the 2015-16 state budget proposal released by Governor Brown last Friday. The top-level report summary is provided in this post, and the full analysis is available on the CBP’s website. Stay tuned to this blog for additional analysis and commentary on the Governor’s proposal and this year’s budget deliberations.
— Steven Bliss
On January 9, Governor Jerry Brown released his proposed 2015-16 state budget. The Governor proposes to spend $113.3 billion from the state’s General Fund in 2015-16, an increase of $1.6 billion (1.4 percent) over the estimated spending level for the current fiscal year (2014-15). Yet, even with increased revenues and a continuing economic recovery that has yet to reach many Californians, the Governor prioritizes fiscal austerity over investing in broadly shared prosperity. While the Governor’s proposed budget includes long-term plans for paying down budgetary debt and saving for a rainy day, it lacks a similar vision for reinvesting in people and communities and ensuring that all Californians share in the state’s economic gains.
The Governor’s proposed 2015-16 budget is heavily focused on implementing policy changes approved in prior years. As required by voter approval of Proposition 2 this past November, his proposal sets aside a portion of revenues — $2.4 billion — with half deposited in the state’s rainy day fund and half used to pay down budgetary debt. The Governor’s proposal also reflects the ongoing implementation of federal health care reform and includes $4 billion for the state’s new K-12 school finance system, which is designed to direct additional resources to disadvantaged students. A sizable boost in funding for schools and community colleges is the result of the tax increases of Proposition 30 passed in 2012 and a growing economy.
While these initiatives move the state forward in important ways, the Governor’s proposed budget fails to lay out a plan to tackle California’s biggest challenges: high levels of unemployment and poverty, widening income inequality, and a safety net severely weakened by years of funding cuts. An improving fiscal outlook provides an opportunity for policymakers to rebuild essential public services and systems — such as by continuing to reinvest in child care and preschool programs, strengthening employment services, helping students and families afford a college education, and increasing assistance for low-income seniors and people with disabilities. Failing to reinvest means that many Californians could be left out of the state’s economic future and puts that future at risk.