Capitol Alert
By David Siders, Jim Miller and Jeremy B. White
January 7, 2016 9:45 AM

  • Democratic governor warns of possible downturn
  • Brown will build reserves more than required
  • School funding increases also planned

Gov. Jerry Brown, issuing a $170.6 billion state spending plan Thursday, proposed billions of dollars in new funding for schools, climate change programs and services for the elderly and disabled.

But the fourth-term governor, who took office amid a crippling recession, repeatedly warned of the possibility of another economic downturn, rejecting calls for more robust spending increases. Brown also criticized ballot measures seeking to extend temporary tax increases he championed in 2012, faulting them for exempting revenue from Proposition 2, the budget reserve voters approved in 2014.

“That, in my judgment, is a fatal flaw,” he said.

That, in my judgment, is a fatal flaw.

Gov. Jerry Brown, on ballot measure proposals to extend Proposition 30 tax increases that skirt the rainy-day fund

The spending plan formally opens months of budget negotiations at the Capitol, an annual exercise characterized in recent years by conflict between Brown and the more liberal, Democratic-controlled Legislature about how much money to spend on health and human service programs.

Brown’s proposal would increase school spending to $10,591 per student, more than $3,600 more than at the tail end of the recession. But Brown expressed reservations about a $9 billion bond measure to pay for school and community college facilities, suggesting he will seek to negotiate an alternative with the Legislature.

The bond measure, Brown said, favors wealthy districts over poorer ones because “it says, ‘Hey, if you’ve got your application ready, you’ll be first in line,’ and that will favor the more affluent and the more resourced districts.”

The budget release serves as a reflection of the governor’s priorities, and Brown on Thursday reintroduced two major proposals for which he failed to secure funding last year: a multibillion-dollar plan to fund road repairs and a modified expansion of a tax on health plans to help generate about $1 billion for Medi-Cal.

Brown, a longtime champion of environmental causes, also proposed using cap-and-trade revenue – money polluters pay to offset carbon emissions – to fund programs to reduce petroleum use in motor vehicles. The proposal comes less than a month after Brown returned from international climate talks in Paris and revisits a legislative defeat Brown suffered on petroleum last year.

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