The Sacramento Bee's state budget reporter, David Siders, took reader questions about Jerry Brown's budget proposal this week in an online chat. Here are some excerpts from the discussion:
K-12 probably counts itself among the winners. I think high-speed rail proponents are happy with the cap-and-trade allocation. On the other side are social service advocates, who say recession-era cuts remain (and who worry about those cuts becoming a new normal).
I don’t see much of a political upside to Brown being less conservative. Nobody’s running against him from the left, and he’s still enjoying the narrative nationally that he’s a Democrat operating against type.
A little more than 42 percent of the general fund budget goes to K-12 education. Another 20 percent or so goes to health programs. Higher education gets nearly 12 percent of proposed expenditures, and corrections gets about 9 percent. Those expenses, for the most part, aren’t one-time things, they’re ongoing. But, to the extent we’re talking about new money, it’s relative. Social service advocates say Brown is using too much to pay off debt (a one-time expense), while critics say he isn’t devoting enough attention to long-term liabilities.
So Brown proposes reducing what he calls the Wall of Debt – or budgetary borrowing – by about $11 billion this year, with full elimination by 2017-18. I think there’s a pretty good chance that much, if not all, of his plan for this year gets done. After all, paying off the school deferrals, which he proposes, is popular with an education constituency lawmakers listen to. His proposal to make early loan payments is probably where he has room to move, if he’s inclined. Keep in mind this doesn’t include what Brown estimates to be $355 billion in long-term liabilities. He acknowledges that will take decades to pay off.
Brown’s budget proposal says the funding increase mentioned above is contingent on tuition remaining flat at 2011-12 levels through 2016-17.