Gov. Jerry Brown points to a chart showing an increase in education funding… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)
Spending 'in a wise way' | 10:53 a.m.
As lawmakers debate more than a dozen different plans for raising additional taxes on things like cigarettes, marijuana, and oil, California Gov. Jerry Brown said he will take a hard line with his budget.
“We just got a nice tax,” he said of the tax increases voters approved in November. “I think we ought to take a deep breath and show we are spending it in a wise way before we start looking for money.”
Brown said he is not surprised by the latest rush of tax proposals, though.
“Everybody wants more spending,” he said. “That’s what this place is, the big spending machine. … They can push, and I can push back. At the end of the day they need the governor’s signature.”
Jerry Brown says no money in budget for prison changes | 10:47
Brown, laying out his budget, says he included no money to pay for the changes he told federal judges he would reluctantly make if ordered to continue shrinking the state’s prison population.
“We have to make our budget on what we know,” Brown said, launching into a protest of court orders for further changes despite a 43,000-inmate drop in the prison population since 2006 and the construction of a new prison medical facility to open this summer.
He cited “real big money, and not money thrown down a rathole, but money for state-of-the-art health facilities at San Quentin, at Stockton, hiring of psychiatrists, psychologists, a system of record keeping. The prisons have really invested a lot of money here.”
Brown this month told federal judges he would, under protest, ask the Legislature to fund the continued use of out-of-state prisons and to lease new prison space from unused jails in Los Angeles and Alameda counties. If federal courts order him to take those acts, Brown said he would figure out how to pay for them then. But he already has started the process of appealing those orders to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We have a plan, and if the Legislature votes for it, then we’ll have to find money,” Brown said. “Relative to the total budget , I’m sure we could find funds.”
'Fracking' concerns | 10:41 a.m.
The governor said he was conflicted on whether there should be an expansion of “fracking” in California.
“I have to balance my strong commitment to dealing with climate change, renewable energy, to what could be a fabulous economic opportunity,” he said. “This could be good. But there are issues. And I want to look at it.”
The governor would not say whether he supports a moratorium on fracking that is being contemplated by lawmakers. Brown said energy companies are still developing their strategies for an expansion of the practice, and there is time for the state to review their plans.
“There are a lot of technical engineering issues,” he said. “I think we have time to do it right.”
Getting Legislature on board | 10:40 a.m.
Brown was asked if the Legislature will go along with his plan to shift more education money to less-advantaged students. He responded that it is a natural move for a Legislature controlled by Democrats.
“I think the idea in a Democratic Legislature of helping the less advantaged is very persuasive,” he said.
If the tea party were in control, he said, lawmakers “might look at it more skeptically.” But he said he believed Democrats, in their “heart of hearts,” support the concept.
Pressed on the fairness of the plan, the governor joked that well-off families living in comfortable suburbs could always move to Compton or Watts to be eligible for the extra money.
Support for counties housing former inmates | 10:37 a.m.
California counties struggling to cover the cost of housing former state prison inmates in their jails deserve a $72-million increase in state support, Brown said. He said the added money is not a sign that his prison realignment program is struggling, but an acknowledgment that the cost incurred by counties has turned out to be higher than the state calculated in 2011.
“We think that is a fair representation of the cost of inmates who are now being handled locally,” the governor said of the increased funding. “Like everything in life, we learn from life and we adjust accordingly.”
State parole costs have dropped dramatically, by more than $50 million, as California has put on county probation most of the state prison inmates who are freed.
Indigent care payments unchanged | 10:33 a.m.
Brown’s budget plan leaves unchanged about $1.5 billion in funds the state pays to counties to care for the indigent.