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A blueprint of the governor’s budget includes billions of dollars for schools, healthcare and other programs.

By Chris Megerian and Anthony York
January 8, 2014, 10:29 p.m.

SACRAMENTO — When he unveils his new budget plan Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown will propose billions of dollars in new spending on schools, healthcare, social services and environmental programs as California reaps the benefits of an economic turnaround.

The governor’s $155-billion blueprint would increase general-fund spending by more than 8%, to $106.8 billion. Brown also wants to repay $11 billion in debts incurred during years of state financial crisis, and he would stash $1.6 billion in a reserve fund as a buffer against future economic turmoil.

“Wisdom and prudence should be the order of the day,” Brown wrote in an introductory message to his 271-page plan, which was leaked ahead of his official announcement, originally scheduled for Friday.

The document is also stuffed with far-reaching policy prescriptions, some likely to draw controversy. Brown wants to make it easier for local governments to issue bonds to pay for public-works projects, and he has reversed his opposition to releasing some elderly, sick and other low-risk inmates to help meet court-ordered limits on the state prison population.

Budget negotiations over the next several months will be crucial for Brown as he lays the groundwork for his expected reelection campaign. Lawmakers must pass a spending plan by June 15 so it can be signed into law and enacted by July1.

The governor has tried to maintain financial restraint even while acknowledging calls from unions and activists who want him to loosen the purse strings after years of deep cuts to social services and other government programs.

Brown ran for office in 2010 with a pledge to repair California’s faltering finances, which had become a national punch line. The governor persuaded voters to approve temporary tax hikes in 2012, and he has benefited from the state’s recovering economy.

Administration officials now expect a $4.2-billion surplus by the end of June — as opposed to the $26.6-billion deficit Brown encountered when he took office in 2011.

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