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State budget agreement reached, roads amongst Governor’s priorities

POSTED June 24, 2015 8:44 a.m.
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Quality of roads is not an issue unique to Ceres as Governor Jerry Brown announced that he will be calling a special session to fix how California funds roads, highways and other infrastructure needs as part of his budget agreement announcement on Tuesday, June 16.

That state's current excise tax funds $2.3 billion of work which results in more than $5.5 billion worth of unfunded repairs annually. The gvernor wants to find "permanent and sustainable funding" to improve the state's infrastructure and corridors which are vital for trade.

"We have ignored our transportation infrastructure for far too long," said Senator Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, who lauded the Governor's emphasis on transportation as an important step forward.

"I felt it was necessary to make transportation a priority this year and am glad to see that Governor Brown agrees. Calling a special session places a greater emphasis on finding a solution that ensures a stable funding mechanism to repair and expand our roads, highways and transit corridors," said Cannella. "For the future of California, we have to take transportation seriously and truly fix the problems we are currently facing before it is too late, and we fall further behind."

A special session will also be held in upcoming weeks to discuss the state's health program Medi-Cal, through which an additional 4 million Californians receive coverage since the state's coverage became more expansive under the Affordable Care Act.

As far as numbers go, the budget builds reserves by $4.6 billion and plans to pay down nearly $2 billion in debts, making it "the best budget we've seen in years" according to Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, who collaborated with the governor and Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, on the agreement. The budget "is consistent with prudent May Revision revenue estimates, that saves billions of dollars and pays down debt, while directing more resources to school and low-income Californians" according to a release issued by Brown's office.

"This is a sound, well though-out budget," said Brown. "Yet, the work never ends and in the coming months we'll have to manage our resources with the utmost prudence and find more adequate funding for our roads and health care programs."

The $117.5 billion spending plan, which may change in upcoming weeks depending upon how the governor exercises his vetoing power, allocates roughly $14 billion for the K-12 and community college systems, $6 billion of which will continue implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula. The agreement also launches the state's first ever California Earned Income Tax Credit in the amount of $380 million to help working poor families in California. The present agreement also brings the state's Rainy Day Fund balance to $3.5 billion.

Senator Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, issued a statement on June 15 vocalizing concerns regarding the governor's proposed plan. While he stated that he agrees with the elements of the May Revise such as more money for education, building up the Rainy Day Fund, paying off debt and taking care of unfunded liabilities, ultimately the budget incorporates too much spending.

"We are still facing a huge amount of debt, but instead of paying down that debt, legislative democrats are going on another spending spree - creating new programs and spending money on pet projects. It's time for these guys to show some fiscal restraint and responsibility - something the governor has repeatedly told them all year," said Berryhill.

Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, and Assemblymember Adam Gray, D-Merced, also released statements colored with concern over the lack of attention paid to the state's impending water crisis.

"There is still much work to be done to get the majority party to stand with Californians on their top budget priority - water. We must work together to move storage, desalination and recycling projects that will increase water supply out of bureaucracy and into construction," said Olsen.

Gray, who noted that the lack of solutions for water storage and use directly impacts his constituents, echoed a similar sentiment.

"This budget accomplishes a lot for the Valley, but the tough decisions we need to make about water were not made today. Continued delays mean more acres fallowed and more farm jobs lost. It also means yet another year of billion dollar drought losses in Agriculture and the dairy industry. We do not have days or weeks to take action. We lose more jobs every hour water fails to flow," said Gray on June 15. "After the voters overwhelmingly approved the Prop 1 water bond last year, the state has yet to put a shovel in the ground. The voters have spoken. It is time to build a dam."

 

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