Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled a state budget for next fiscal year that is balanced and allocates more money for education.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Brown's $97 billion proposed budget for 2013-2014 has a $1 billion reserve, leading the governor to declare the state budget deficit has disappeared for the first time since the recession began.
A legislative analyst last fall had projected a $1.9 billion deficit, despite the approval in November of an income tax hike on high earners and a temporary hike in the sales tax.
An improving economy and higher tax revenues have erased that deficit.
Spending in the governor's 2013 budget would rise by 5 percent over the 2012-2013 budget, according to a Reuters report.
Nonetheless, the governor cautioned California cannot go back to previous spending levels. For example, Brown said he is unwilling to restore funding for some social programs that have been cut in recent years.
"It is best to maintain a very solid budget and a good reserve... or we'll go back to the boom and bust, borrow and spend," Brown was quoted by the Bee as saying.
The governor does recommend adding $125 million to both the state university and the state college system. As part of that, Brown wants colleges and universities to cap the number of classes students can take.
The governor also is recommending an additional $2.7 billion for local schools and community colleges, increasing the total education budget to $56 billion, the Bee reported.
As part of that extra funding, Brown is asking for a financial overhaul of the California school system, according to the Bee.
State Superintendent Tom Torlakson said he believes the governor is on the right track.
“The governor’s budget proposal keeps the promise we made to Californians who supported Proposition 30 and wisely begins to restore some of what our schools have lost. It will take years to bring our education system back to financial health and I applaud the governor for beginning that work in earnest," said Torlakson.
He added, “I admire the governor’s determination to move forward with an overhaul of California’s confusing system of school finance and I share his desire to direct more help to students and schools with the greatest needs. At the same time, I remain concerned about the fragile fiscal state of so many school districts and preserving state priorities. I look forward to examining details of the governor’s proposal and working closely with the education community throughout this challenging process.”
Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), who represents the 25th Assembly District, also applauded Brown for some parts of his budget proposal.
“The governor’s budget shows much progress has been made in getting California’s deficits under control. We are increasing our investments in K-12 and higher education and that will benefit our economy and our future workforce," Wieckowski said in a statement. "Just two years ago, we were facing a $25 billion shortfall. Now, although we are not out of the woods yet, our fiscal condition is in much greater shape."
Wieckowski, however, disagreed with cuts to the court system.
"Unfortunately, this budget proposal underfunds our courts by roughly $200 million by relying on transfers. As the third branch of government, our judicial system is part of the hallmark of democracy and should be funded appropriately," he continued. “But today marks only the first step in the budget process and it shows California has moved beyond huge deficits and is well on the road to recovery.”
The state Legislature still has to approve the governor's budget plan. Democrats now have two-third majorities in both the Assembly and state Senate.
The budget takes effect July 1.
You can see the entire budget proposal on the state financial office's website here.