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Key aspects of the California budget, at a glance
Question of the Day
Key aspects of the budget passed Sunday by the Legislature:
- The general fund spending package passed by the Legislature and headed to the governor is $108 billion, a record amount. Combined with bond funds and special funds dedicated for specific programs, total state spending for the 2014-15 fiscal year will be $156.4 billion. The previous high for California’s general fund, the state’s main checkbook for paying day-to-day expenses, was $103 billion in the year just before the recession hit.
- $1.6 billion is intended for the state’s rainy day fund and to start paying down California’s massive debts and unfunded liabilities, leaving a $449 million reserve. Among the most problematic unfunded liabilities is the $74 billion hole in the California State Teachers’ Retirement System. Both houses on Sunday approved AB1469 to start reducing the liability by increasing rates paid by schools, teachers and the state.
- The budget leaves in place a 10 percent cut in reimbursements to doctors and hospitals treating patients enrolled in Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for the poor. Health advocates say the cut makes it harder for low-income patients to access doctors and specialists.
- The budget includes about $1 billion to cover higher-than-expected Medi-Cal enrollment as a result of the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. The administration had projected 10.5 million people would enroll in Medi-Cal in the 2014-15 fiscal year but increased that estimate in May to 11.5 million, or about 30 percent of the state population.
- Starting next April, the maximum aid allowed under California’s welfare-to-work program, known as CalWORKs, will increase by 5 percent.
- The budget includes $250 million from the so-called cap-and-trade greenhouse gas fund for the $68 billion high-speed rail project, a priority of Gov. Jerry Brown’s. In future years, 25 percent of cap-and-trade revenue would go to the rail project, 40 percent will go toward water and energy efficiency programs, natural resource conservation and cleaner transportation, and 35 percent will go for public transit and affordable housing projects that help reduce greenhouse gases.
-An education trailer bill, SB858, sparked controversy for language added late last week that would restrict how much money school districts can keep in their reserves. Teachers unions and Democratic lawmakers backing the change say it prevents money from being stockpiled instead of being spent in the classroom. School administrators and Republican lawmakers say it will prevent school districts from adequately preparing for economic downturns and state budget cuts.
- Through AB1468, lawmakers approved spending an additional $500 million to build and improve county jails as part of a public safety bill. The measure also makes a number of changes designed to help rehabilitate criminals, including removing an 18-year-old prohibition on felons convicted of drug offenses receiving state benefits through the CalWORKs and CalFresh programs.
- One trailer bill that did not come up for floor votes was AB1471, which would have imposed a tax on fireworks distributors to pay for the storage and disposal of illegal fireworks. Republican lawmakers blasted the bill as a “patriot tax” and “Fourth of July” tax. New taxes need approval from two-thirds of lawmakers. That was not going to be achieved in the Senate, where Democrats do not have a supermajority.
- Relatives and workers who care for the elderly and people with disabilities outside of nursing homes will be entitled to overtime pay. The budget includes $180 million for that purpose in exchange for rules to prevent excessive overtime.
- The budget includes $264 million for expanding education before kindergarten, starting with 11,500 new preschool spots for low-income families and increased child-care reimbursement rates. Combined with existing programs, the proposal would provide early education assistance to roughly 234,000 children, covering half of all 4-year-olds in the state.
- The University of California and California State University systems will receive an extra boost of $50 million each if the state receives more money from property taxes than expected, plus $100 million for deferred maintenance projects.
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