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California Lawmakers Pass Budget Expanding Help For Poor

Gov. Jerry Brown gestures to a budget chart as he discusses his proposed 2018-19 state budget at a news conference Wednesday in Sacramento, Calif., Jan. 10, 2018.
Associated Press
Gov. Jerry Brown gestures to a budget chart as he discusses his proposed 2018-19 state budget at a news conference Wednesday in Sacramento, Calif., Jan. 10, 2018.
California Lawmakers Pass Budget Expanding Help For Poor
California Lawmakers Pass Budget Expanding Help For Poor GUEST: Ben Adler, capitol bureau chief, Capital Public Radio

Painful accusations of sexual abuse have been swirling in our states capital and every power center nationwide. New proposals could help change in Sacramento. We will talk about that in a moment. But first, our elective representatives have a 10% higher budget than last year. Their reasons to be cautious. The benefits of California's booming economy are not reaching the whole population. There is a question that are we prepared? Capital public radio Ben Adler is here. >> Thank you for having me . >> how much bigger is this years budget than last year? Who will benefit from the extra sacramental money? >> It is about 9% general fund spending plan of $140 billion. When you factor in bond fund and other funds there is nearly $200 billion. There's a lot of money available. The economy in California is booming. Tax revenues are pouring into state coffers. There is an increase in spending but Jerry Brown and his final year of Governor has insisted to put money into reserves. $16 billion is going into various reserve accounts. A lot of the spending increases are one time rather than ongoing. Those are some of the steps being taken to seek to manage the surge of money coming into the state. They prepare the state for recession. >> How does education benefit? >> Education goes up when money comes in because of opposition proposition 98. K-12 and community colleges are part of getting more money than ever. Higher education also gets money. They are not constitutionally detected. They are at the whims of the government and state lawmakers on the governor. Governor Brown will likely increase funding because he believes they suffer from administrative failings. At this time the governor did go along with more money for each system ongoing in fact for the CSU one time largely for the UC. That will prevent any tuition increases this fall . >> one of the highest rates of child poverty and homelessness in the country. There is an element in the budget. How and when would that actually be awarded? >> $500 million for homelessness are eligible for that money. It won't get out as fast as you might think considering everyone is talking about how this is a crisis in an emergency that requires an immediate response. If you look at the fine print in the budget bills you would see that the state has until January 31 of next year of 2019. Seven months into this fiscal the upcoming fiscal year to get the money. Earlier this week I asked Senate president pro tem who represents the San Diego area how he feels about it. For fighting homelessness is his a priority of hers. She said look you want to make sure we get the money to the right place and it is spent appropriately. There is always waste, fraud and abuse as a catchphrase. You want us to get out there fast make Cerda spent responsibly so that is the trade-off. >> What are they saying about the budget in Sacramento? >> They are happy it is being put in savings accounts but frustrating spending is growing as high as it did. Republican Senator Morlock decried the way the Democrats have been running the state . >> highest taxes and debts token rainy day fund, in Sacramento has botched it . >> that is something you hear from Republicans a lot. Criticizing the budget and Democrats for increasing spending nearly nines 9% when inflation rises much more slowly . >> accusations of sexual abuse from men and women and you've been covering all of this debate. This week there is some evidence that steps are being taken to change the culture. Tell us about that . >> after months of hearings in a new process for the legislature to handle sexual harassment complaints, we have an announcement of a new system clerk It is for both houses from lawmakers to staff. Also public that may harass them. The proposal would create a single investigative unit housed in the legislative counsel office with a panel of outside experts whether recommendations are needed for allegations. However, they will retain the right to overrule the recommendations. If so it must be documented and we will see whether the document are public or not. If there is a reversal would they need to be made public? That is one question the public will have moving forward. >> Thanks for filling us in, Ben Adler.

State lawmakers approved a $139 billion budget Thursday that uses California's massive surplus to boost funding for homeless programs, welfare, child care and universities while also socking some money into savings.

The budget, which boosts spending 9 percent for the fiscal year beginning July 1, was approved with support mainly from Democrats.

"We've done something pretty great for people in California," said Sen. Connie Leyva, a Democrat from Chino in the Inland Empire.

The spending plan was negotiated by Democrats Gov. Jerry Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins of San Diego, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon of Lakewood.

California is riding a wave of economic growth that has produced the largest surplus since at least 2000. Even the most conservative forecast pegs the surplus at nearly $9 billion.

Lawmakers and Brown are using that windfall to fill the rainy day fund to the maximum allowed under the state constitution and boost other savings, producing $16 billion in total reserves. Nearly $14 billion of that will be in the rainy day fund, which can only be spent during a budget emergency caused by a natural disaster or decline in revenue.

Republicans praised the focus on savings but said the budget doesn't do enough to pay down debt and irresponsibly increases long-term commitments that will hamstring the state in the future. Sen. John Moorlach, a Republican from Costa Mesa in Orange County, said the state isn't doing enough to address growing obligations for pensions and retiree health care.

"In a year when one enjoys a bumper crop, one must set aside cash and pay down the credit card balance," Moorlach said. "We've got to get ahead of this mess."

The budget will boost assistance for people living in poverty, including more than 13,000 new slots for subsidized child care. People on CalWorks, the state welfare program, will see monthly grants rise by 10 percent in April, the start of a multiyear effort to lift the income of the poorest Californians to 50 percent of the federal poverty level. Advocates said the boost would ensure children aren't living in deep poverty, which harms their brain development and hinders future performance in school and work.

It includes $500 million for emergency grants to help cities and counties reduce homelessness. The grants can be used on a range of programs, including housing vouchers and shelter construction to help address California's rapidly rising costs and growing homeless population.

The budget also boosts university funding, forestalling tuition increases at both California State University and University of California, and creates an online community college to offer credentials to working adults unable to attend classes in person. Brown's administration announced that the first program will offer a credential in medical billing and coding.

The deal left out an expansion of Medi-Cal health care coverage to young immigrants living in the country illegally and financial assistance for people who buy their own insurance in the individual market.

California's nearly $200 billion total budget includes $138.6 billion in general fund spending, $57.1 billion in special funds that must be spent for specific purposes and $3.9 billion in money from bonds.

As part of the budget negotiations, Brown and lawmakers agreed to allow victims of a notorious California serial killer to get a renewed chance to seek compensation for their emotional trauma or financial losses. Normally, victims have just three years to file with the California Victim Compensation Board for crimes, but the legislation would open a new window for victims to file claims after 72-year-old former police officer Joseph DeAngelo was charged in the Golden State Killer case.

Lawmakers also approved funding to rebuild the state Capitol annex, which is attached to the historic Capitol and houses most of the offices for Brown, lawmakers and their staffs. Supporters said the aging building is in disrepair and is hazardous for visitors to navigate, but critics said the more than $700 million planned for the project could be better spent elsewhere.