Jerry Brown

The governor wants to overhaul how the state funds its nearly 10,000 public schools and may cut court and prison spending.

By Anthony York and Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times
January 9, 2013, 5:32 p.m.

SACRAMENTO — The days of catastrophic deficits behind him, Gov. Jerry Brown is set to propose a state budget Thursday that would shift the Capitol’s focus from fiscal triage to sweeping policy changes in education, criminal justice and healthcare.

Brown is expected to use his spending plan to shake up California’s public university systems, according to administration officials. The governor has long complained that they are bloated and inefficient, and he wants to attach strings to some of their funding.

He has also signaled that the state’s court and prison budgets could be cut, including a shift of 16,000 inmates to cheaper, lower-security housing.

The governor wants to change how the state funds its nearly 10,000 public schools, and he will present his plan for implementing President Obama’s healthcare overhaul.

Although he is largely free of the financial crisis that has long gripped state government, Brown has made clear that many of his proposals would reshape the way California spends the money it has rather than create costly new programs. The revenue from tax hikes passed by voters in November is spoken for, and Brown said this week that he would be dogged about keeping spending in check.

“If we don’t do that,” he said, “then we have an illusion that things are good and we go back to this money-today, no-money tomorrow.”

Legislative leaders, emboldened by their new Democratic supermajorities in the Senate and Assembly, are likely to test his resolve. They have already suggested they’ll push to restore many government services that were rolled back in recent years.

The tussle among the governor, lawmakers and lobbyists representing interests with a stake in the roughly $95-billion general fund typically lasts for months. Lawmakers have until June to pass a final budget.

Meanwhile, remnants of red ink remain. Legislative analysts say Brown will need to close a deficit of $1.9 billion. The governor has signaled that cuts in the state court and prison budgets could help cover that shortfall.

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