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California budget increasingly goes to salaries, healthcare, report says

February 19, 2013|By Chris Megerian
  • A chart released Tuesday shows California's budget is being increasingly dedicated to covering employee costs.
A chart released Tuesday shows California's budget is being increasingly… (California Common Sense )

When Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled his latest budget proposal, he emphasized his push to send more money to universities and local schools.

But a new report says those two areas have lost ground to the growing costs of salaries and retirement benefits for public employees.

The report was released Tuesday by California Common Sense, a nonpartisan research group at Stanford University.

The state will still send more money to education than to public employees. But the proportion of money spent on salaries, retirement benefits and debt payments has grown since 2007, while the proportion going to government services like schools and social services has dropped, the report said.

The biggest jump in spending was seen in healthcare programs such as MediCal, increasing from 13% to 20% of the state budget in the last six years.

“Think of the state’s proposed budget as a pie. Compared to 2007-08, the overall pie is larger, but social services, K-12, universities, courts, and other services are now smaller slices,” said a statement from Autumn Carter, the executive director of California Common Sense. “On the other hand, health care services, employee salaries, retirement benefits, and debt service are all larger slices.”

The report looks at all state funds, which includes the state's general fund and hundreds of accounts dedicated to various programs and government costs.

H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for Brown's Department of Finance, noted that the proportion of general fund spending sent to local schools has increased slightly since 2007.

Nineteen contracts affecting nearly half of the state's 350,000 workers will expire this summer, and Brown's administration is preparing for wide-ranging negotiations with public employee unions. 

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 Twitter: @chrismegerian

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