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California budget highest ever passed

Assemblyman Scott Wilk and state Sen. Steve Knight weigh in on spendi

Posted: June 17, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 17, 2014 2:00 a.m.
 

Santa Clarita Valley legislators mostly split along party lines Monday in reviewing the state’s new $108 billion budget for the coming fiscal year, the highest spending plan ever passed for the Golden State.

“The budget regrettably sets the state up for significant future spending obligations, such as the proposal to increase welfare grants by 5 percent,” said Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, in a prepared statement.

Wilk says the budget proves Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who largely crafted the spending plan, and his fellow Democrats in the Legislature “have not learned their lesson when it comes to overspending.”

“When budgeting for a state of 38 million people, no one — myself included — will be completely satisfied,” said Democratic Sen. Fran Pavley, whose district takes in part of the Santa Clarita Valley. “But on the whole the Legislature has passed a responsible, on-time budget that balances the need to pay down debt and save for a rainy day with re-investment in areas such as education, health care and the court system.”

“I will give this the highest grade since I’ve been up here,” state Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, said in a phone interview Monday. It’s the sixth budget Knight has voted on in the Legislature.

Still, he said, he was one of the 11 senators who voted against the proposal, approved at the last minute to meet a looming deadline.

“There are some very good things in the budget,” Knight said, “but some not so good.” He said the budget spends too much and sets aside too little in the state’s so-called “rainy-day fund” to buffer it next time the economy takes a downturn.

Other specific objections Knight had to the budget included CalFresh, the state’s food stamps program, being made available to convicted drug felons.

“The drug felon typically has used those types of things as payment for drugs,” he said. “It’s just not a good precedent.”

He said increased health care payments did not go where they’re most needed. “We should be increasing payments to health care for kids, health care for the elderly.”

Both he and Wilk criticized the state for linking restrictions on public school district reserves with a plan to more quickly pay back school districts money the state owes them. Wilk said the cap on reserves could push some districts into bankruptcy.

Wilk also had a beef with the new budget’s spending on higher education. The budget calls for a boost of $50 million for both the University of California and California State University systems if the state receives more money from property taxes than expected, plus $100 million for deferred maintenance projects.

But Wilk said Brown “did not fulfill his promise to use Proposition 30 to fund public education, which California voters approved.”

“In addition to the Prop. 30 letdown, the budget rejects a bipartisan request to increase funding for the California State University by $95 million,” Wilk said.

Funding for the state’s proposed high-speed bullet train also came in for criticism.

“The budget takes $250 million from Cap and Trade to fund high-speed rail. It also makes it an ongoing appropriation, taking away the Legislature’s right to appropriate and conduct oversight,” Wilk said.

Still, Knight said he found much to like in the plan.

Among other things, it restores some spending to regional centers that provide aid to developmentally disabled people and parents with children who have special needs.

“If we’re not going to help the folks who need the help most, we’ve kind of put ourselves in a box,” he said.

“Government has a role in society, and the role is that we use the tax dollars to provide services like schools, roads and prisons — and for services that are needed in our communities.”

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