After years of red ink, Gov. Jerry Brown said on Thursday that California’s $96.7-billion general fund is now poised to end next year with a surplus, thanks to years of deep budget cuts and billions in new taxes approved by voters last year.
“We achieved the position we’re in because of tough cuts … and then the people voted for taxes,” he said. “We broke the logjam by going to the people.”
Schools will be the big winner in the governor’s new spending plan, receiving $56.2 billion in state funds, an increase by $2.7 billion over the last year. That funding is set to jump to more than $66 billion by 2016.
The budget also dedicated an additional $350 million to the state’s public insurance program, Medi-Cal, to help implement President Obama’s healthcare law.
Brown’s budget predicts only the second budget surplus in the last decade, with an $851-million surplus projected at the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year — if all his proposals are approved by lawmakers.
With Democrats firmly in control of both legislative houses and the governor’s office, and without what had become familiar multibillion-dollar deficits, this year’s announcement lacked the anxiety and urgency that had surrounded past budget unveilings.
Instead of railing against proposed reductions in popular programs, activists are now girding for long policy battles based on the ideas put forward by the governor on Thursday.
Those fights will play out in the Legislature over the coming months. While they include sweeping changes in how Sacramento spends its money, those skirmishes, too, will lack the drama over cuts to schools and health services that have dominated Capitol discourse for the better part of the last decade.