Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown signs $115.4 billion general fund budget

Gov. Jerry Brown waits to answers questions during a news conference where he announced a budget agreement on June 16.
Gov. Jerry Brown waits to answers questions during a news conference where he announced a budget agreement on June 16.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed the $115.4 billion general fund budget that he and lawmakers agreed to last week, issuing only a handful of line-item vetoes.

The total amount of spending vetoed, $1.3 million, was the lowest for a California budget since 1982, when Brown was governor before and vetoed nothing.

This year, Brown’s signature was never in doubt. The Democratic governor and legislative leaders announced a budget deal last week, and rank-and-file lawmakers ratified it Friday. The spending plan increases funding for state-funded preschool and universities and will expand Medi-Cal coverage to undocumented children starting in May 2016.

The budget’s enactment comes a week before the July 1 start of the next fiscal year. But Brown and the Democratic-controlled Legislature have significant work to do outside the budget process. Brown called a special session last week to address funding shortfalls in health care, roads and infrastructure.

In addition, Brown and lawmakers have yet to resolve a dispute over how to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in cap-and-trade revenue, money that is paid to offset carbon emissions.

Michael Cohen, Brown’s finance director, said Wednesday that the administration does not support using cap-and-trade money for road repairs. He also argued against a special fee on electric vehicles, which several states have adopted to make up for lost gasoline taxes.

Cohen said California has “spent a lot of money encouraging the purchase of electric cars, so calling them out and having electric cars pay an additional fee runs counter to all of the money that we’ve spent encouraging the purchase of them.”

Cohen said some kind of “across the board fee” would affect all car owners no matter what type of vehicle they drive.

In six line-item vetoes, Brown made small deletions or modifications in several budget areas, including eliminating $1 million to help with restoration efforts in Clear Lake, in Lake County. Instead, Brown said he directed his administration to help Lake County officials identify grant funding.

Brown also vetoed funding language that authorized the Department of Finance to approve up to $15 million for the relinquishment of the Tower Bridge to the cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento. It was not a straight appropriation, and the administration did not include it in the total value of line-item vetoes. Brown said in a budget document that he supported the bridge’s relinquishment – which the state still could fund – but objected to “using the budget process to circumvent this negotiation process.”

The total budget, including all funds, was set at $167.6 billion. It replaced a more expansive budget lawmakers put forward earlier this month, knowing Brown would reject it but racing to meet a June 15 deadline to pass a budget or give up pay.

Unlike last year, when he used the budget signing to promote his re-election campaign, Brown signed this year’s budget without fanfare.

Brown posted a photograph on Twitter of him meeting with Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles.

“Budget signed,” he wrote. “Onto the health care & transportation special sessions.”

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders

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