SACRAMENTO (AP) — At California budget windfall should be used in part to boost monthly welfare grants, university funding and efforts to address the state’s housing and homelessness crisis, state Senate Democratic leaders said Wednesday.
They spoke ahead of upcoming budget negotiations with the Assembly and Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown
“The state of California’s fiscal outlook is the strongest it has been in a generation,” Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, told reporters at briefing with Sen. Holly Mitchell, a Los Angeles Democrat who leads the budget committee.
Atkins and Mitchell say state funding, particularly for safety net programs, hasn’t kept up with the higher cost of delivering services. Their plan would phase in a boost in monthly payments to people in poverty through CalWorks, the state’s welfare program. The average grant for a family of three would rise from approximately $700 to about $1,000 a month at a cost of $1.5 billion a year.
The Senate’s $140 billion general fund budget proposal is about $2 billion more than Brown’s revised spending plan released earlier this month. The Senate is using rosier assumptions that peg the surplus about $2.6 billion higher than Brown, who was already projecting the state’s largest surplus since at least 2000.
Their plan sets up a showdown with Brown, who is preparing to leave office and has taken a hard line against new ongoing spending commitments that he says the state can’t sustain over the long term.
“I’ll certainly look at any measure, but I’m trying to leave the most responsible budget I can to the next governor,” Brown said when he released his spending plan on May 11. “I’m going to be reluctant to embark on programs that will continue and will grow into the future.”
Brown wraps up his fourth term in January.
The Senate plan, like Brown’s, would fill the state’s rainy day fund to 10 percent of general fund revenue. It would also create a separate reserve fund — starting at $1 billion — intended to specifically protect safety net programs that see a spike in need when revenue dips during economic downturns.
The Senate also would boost funding for the University of California and California State University by higher levels than Brown. They’d also spend $4 billion over four years for subsidized housing and services for the homeless.
In the Assembly, Democrats have prioritized an expansion of Medi-Cal, the state Medicaid program, to cover young adults living in the country illegally.
Lawmakers have until June 15 to approve a spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1.