Approval of the state budget this year was characterized by optimism growing out of a bonanza allowing the state to have a reserve fund, pay off debts and expand spending in social areas that suffered cuts in the past.
Voters can also be thanked for the speed with which the 2014-15 spending plan was passed, as 2010’s Proposition 25 facilitated the budget process, allowing it to pass with a reasonable majority rather than two thirds of the votes.
Of course the big difference was the increased revenues flowing into state coffers, which led to a debate between Governor Brown’s desire to save funds in reserve and Democrats who wanted to restore spending cuts and those who were promoting important initiatives such as the proposal by Senator Darrel Steinberg to expand preschool education.
Steinberg did not get the billions he was asking for, but he did get $264 million, which, combined with existing programs, could cover up to half the four-year-olds in California.
Another positive element is the inclusion of $180 million to pay overtime to workers who care for the elderly and disabled in their homes.
What is surprising is that the budget includes a measure limiting what school districts can save in reserve funds. In other words, what is good for the state is bad for education. The fact that Sacramento is taking independence away from school authorities in the handling of their budgets when it is giving them more money is not good for education.
The budget in general is positive, despite the insistence on the high-speed rail. The spending plan follows Brown’s vision of a balance between fiscal soundness and humane investment.