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State

Inland Senators Split on Good, Bad in Governor's Budget Proposal

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RIVERSIDE (CNS) - Revisions announced today by Gov. Gavin Newsom for his proposed 2019-20 budget elicited concerns about spending from one Inland
Empire lawmaker, while another praised the $214 billion fiscal blueprint for all its earmarks to benefit education.
   ``I applaud Gov. Newsom's sound investments in the fields of early childhood education, K-12 primary education and higher education,'' Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, said. ``The governor recognizes the need for students' access to special education programs to maximize positive outcomes, along with the need for greater investments in mental health, and the highest
ever spending to elevate all schools.''
   Under the May Revise, funding for special education programs would
expand by $200 million compared to the governor's January budget proposal.
Plans remain intact for an ``all-time high'' in spending to support K-12
schools and community colleges, making more than $80 billion available,
equating to $5,000 more in per-pupil expenditures compared to eight years ago.
   Newsom is also calling on the Legislature to increase spending for
``recruitment and retention of qualified teachers'' at all levels.
   The May Revise additionally maintains full funding for the two-year
waiver of tuition at community colleges, initiated under former Gov. Jerry
Brown, for students entering higher education for the first time.
   About $540 million is being sought to cover housing initiatives,
operational costs, campus child care programs and other needs within the
University of California and Cal State University systems.
   ``His prudent investments in the UC system will allow for enrollment
growth and hasten graduations to fuel California's future workforce needs,''
Roth said.
   Sen. Mike Morrell, R-Menifee, expressed disbelief that, with the May
Revise showing a $21.5 billion budget surplus going into the next fiscal year,
there was nothing in the proposal establishing some tax relief for
Californians.
   To the contrary, Morrell said, Democrat party majorities in the
Assembly and Senate appeared bent on implementing new taxes totaling $6.2
billion.
   ``One would think the ruling party would finally conclude that
Californians pay enough and want government to make do with what it has," the
senator said. ``Under one-party rule in Sacramento, it is clear that government
will never be too big or powerful for Democratic leaders.''
   He said the governor had missed an opportunity to introduce measures
aimed directly at helping low and middle income residents.
   ``Californians continue to be concerned about the quality of life
here,'' Morrell said. ``They see gas prices soaring and everyday necessities
becoming more expensive.''
   Newsom continued his ``California Dream'' theme from January, saying
the budget ensures a ``strong fiscal foundation'' for the state.
   ``This budget fortifies California's fiscal position while making long-
sighted investments to increase affordability for California families,''
the governor said.
   The May Revise boosts the proposed amount to be deposited into the
state's Rainy Day Fund by $1.2 billion, bringing the aggregate deposit to $6
billion. With that infusion, the reserve will reach $16.5 billion in 2019-20,
close to the constitutional mandate of 10 percent of general fund revenue, the
governor said.
   Another priority is his push toward single-payer healthcare. The
governor is seeking to implement a California-only individual health insurance
mandate in answer to the U.S. Congress' elimination of that Obamacare
requirement in 2017. According to his budget, in the near term, Newsom wants to
make Medi-Cal coverage available to people 18-25 years old, regardless of
immigration status.
   The May Revise further calls for an eight-week expansion of paid
family leave, giving parents up to four months to care for a newborn or adopted
child without fear of losing their job.
   The revised spending plan contains the same $1.75 billion general fund
commitment to affordable housing development announced in January. However,
about $500 million would be dedicated to mixed-income housing production under
the May Revise.
   Weighed against demand, California has a deficit of more than 1.5
million low-income rental units throughout the state, according to a
legislative analysis.
   Spending proposed under the May Revise is $5 billion more than what
Newsom sought in January. The total proposed budget exceeds current fiscal year
spending by $13 billion, according to figures.