POLITICS
01/09/2015 05:58 pm ET

California Governor's Record Spending Plan Is Major Boost To Education

Bloomberg via Getty Images

Days after beginning an unprecedented fourth term, California Governor Jerry Brown (D) released a record $113 billion budget, with a five percent increase in general fund spending this fiscal year.

"The state budget, after a decade of fiscal turbulence, is finally balanced -- more precariously than I would like -- but balanced," he said before breaking down the spending plan, one-third of which he said will benefit low-income Californians.

In addition to the $113.3 billion in general fund spending, his proposal includes $45.5 billion from dedicated funds and $5.9 billion from bonds.

K-12 schools and community colleges will get $65.7 billion in the 2015-16 fiscal year, a 39 percent increase from what was laid out four years ago, increasing annual spending per student by more than $2,600.

While up from last place, California ranked 46th in education spending in 2011 to 2012, according to recently released data.

"Education took the biggest cuts, and because of Prop 98, they’re getting restored," Brown said of the proposition guaranteeing a minimum amount of the state’s budget will go to schools.

However, he allocated no additional funds to the University of California system beyond the $120 million boost he already guaranteed, bringing spending to $762 million at each university system. He explicitly stated that the added funds remain contingent on UC tuition remaining flat.

The spending plan, however, stands in direct opposition to a decision passed by the UC regents in November, which would increase tuition by 5 percent annually over the next five years unless Brown diverts more funds to the system -- a move that sparked massive protests across the nine-campus system and provoked vocal disapproval from Brown.

"The university can be a fine university" with these funds, he said. Instead of increasing the UC budget by the $100 million UC president Janet Napolitano is asking for, Brown says he will work with the university to cut its costs elsewhere.

The budget plan also makes remaining debt payments, including the last one on the $15 billion borrowed in Economic Recovery Bonds, and bolsters the "rainy day" reserve by $1.2 billion, bringing it to a total of 2.8 billion by the end of the year.

Brown revealed how the state would begin spending the $7.5 billion water bond voters approved in November, with $450 million going to stream, river and watershed restoration; water recycling projects; and drinking water and wastewater plant upgrades.

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