Lawmakers reject even a small cost-saving plan from Brown

Lawmakers reject even a small cost-saving plan from Brown

(Calif.) A bipartisan majority of a key legislative panel voted Tuesday to reject Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to delay a hike in reimbursements to child care providers in another sign lawmakers are looking to challenge the administration’s frugal fiscal outlook for 2017-18.

The dollars involved are miniscule in the context of the estimated $125 billion that the state is likely to spend in the coming year, but members of the Assembly’s subcommittee on education finance expressed a clear recognition that they believe the governor has under-estimated the amount of tax revenue the state will bring in this year, and that programs and services crucial to low-income families won’t be sacrificed.

“We don’t want to be in a position of just defending what we’ve got right now, we need to be looking to add back to what we lost during the recession,” said Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, who chairs the subcommittee. “This is an issue for California’s economic future, our kids, our families—for fighting poverty and closing the achievement gap.”

Brown’s January budget proposal painted a bleak economic picture of California, noting that tax collections had failed to meet estimates in five of the prior seven months. Brown said that the state faced a deficit of $2 billion if action wasn’t taken.

As a result, the governor proposed trimming some programs and holding back additional funding for others. He included a deferral of close to $900 million to K-12 schools for one month as part of his budget fix.

Some financial experts, however, have said that Brown is misreading the economy and that taxes—especially those paid on capital gains—will eventually show up. They note the S&P 500 has risen more than 270 points since the November election.

The non-partisan Legislative Analyst has told lawmakers that Brown is likely to be wrong about the revenue collections and that when the governor releases his revised May budget next month, there will be a lot more money to work with.

Tuesday’s hearing on child care and early learner issues drew a large crowd of advocates for low-income families as well as parents and students.

While the panel did not take formal positions on a number of budget and policy questions, they did on a 5-1 vote reject the governor’s proposal to save about $225 million in adjusting reimbursements to child care providers and related support.

One of the two Republican lawmakers on the subcommittee voted with the majority while the other said he was leaning their way but wanted to see what revenues looked like in May.

“Mrs. Cleaver isn’t waiting at the door with pearls on to take care of the children,” said Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, who voted with Democrats against the governor’s cost saving plan. “The world has changed and that’s not reality.”

Looming in the background of Tuesday’s hearing is a plan from Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, to use a significant amount of the expected bump in revenues to improve services to early learners overall.

Rendon convened a blue ribbon panel to look at what is needed and provide recommendations in the coming weeks. Expectations are that the Speaker’s early learning initiative will become a focal point of the budget negotiations in June.