Saturday, June 15, 2013
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- After approving the main state budget bill a full day ahead of their constitutional deadline, California legislators are returning to work with only a handful of measures still to consider.
The remaining bills are designed to carry out various aspects of the spending plan they approved on Friday. The measures address issues surrounding Medi-Cal expansion, college scholarships for middle-class students, grants to those in California's welfare-to-work program, and money for school energy projects.
The final votes expected Saturday follow a flurry of activity on Friday, which included passing a $96.3 billion spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year. Party-line tallies in the Assembly and Senate on the main budget bill ensured that the state is headed for its third consecutive on-time spending plan.
"What a difference a year, a recovering economy and passage of Prop. 30 can make," said Sen. Mark Leno, referring to the tax-hike measure approved in November.
"This is probably the most encouraging and positive budget experience that I've had in my 11 years at the Capitol," said Leno, D-San Francisco, and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.
Buoyed by supermajorities in both chambers and better-than-anticipated tax collections, Democrats were able to restore some of the funding that was slashed during the recession for mental health treatment, health care for the poor and higher education.
Those partial restorations were possible even as they stuck to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's more-conservative revenue projections.
GOP legislators, excluded from negotiations, blasted the Democratic agreement as too costly given California's debts, including its unfunded pension liabilities.
"It's a compromise between the people who want to spend a little more and the people who want to spend a lot more," said Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee.
Under the spending plan, K-12 school districts will receive more money, particularly those with high levels of students who come from low-income families, who are not proficient in English or who are foster children. Districts also will have more control over how they spend that state aid.
Among the pending bills is a measure to distribute $1.2 billion in one-time money to help districts implement a set of new academic standards intended to better prepare students for college.
Another measure would set aside $305 million annually for college scholarships for students whose families make less than $150,000 a year.
The Legislature has until midnight to send the remaining budget-related measures to the governor's desk.