Jerry Brown Proposes A New Budget For California

California Gov. Jerry Brown released a budget proposal that calls for a $1.9 billion rainy day fund, cuts to the prison population and some funds restored to the state's higher education system. However, state workers hoping to see more in their pension funds will be disappointed.

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Today, California Governor Jerry Brown announced that the state's healthier finances will mean billions of dollars of new spending. The winners in the governor's proposed record budget include schools and welfare. He also wants millions spent on maintaining roads and parks.

But after years of cuts, Governor Brown made clear that he's keeping the purse strings tight, warning that prudence should be the order of the day. NPR's Richard Gonzales reports.

RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: In this, his third term as governor, Jerry Brown is trying to establish a balance between fiscal restraint and yet, also finding money for his legacy projects, such as education, water and high-speed rail.

GOVERNOR JERRY BROWN: For this year, there's very good news - good news in the fiscal stability and resources available for the state of California.

GONZALES: Brown's proposed budget is a record $155 billion. There's $10 billion in new spending for K through 12 schools that had taken major hits in the past decade; three billion dollars more for higher education, where rising fees had prompted massive student protests; and millions more for deferred maintenance for state parks, highways, prisons and hospitals. But after years of multibillion-dollar budget deficits, Brown warned Californians that by no means are we out of the wilderness.

BROWN: We have serious issues before us in terms of long-term liabilities, debts, and we must be very prudent in the way we spend public funds.

GONZALES: For example, Brown said now is not the time for new spending initiatives. Instead, he says, the state needs to take steps to reduce short and long-term liabilities, what the governor calls the wall of debt. Much of that is in unfunded pension liabilities. His 2014 budget doesn't address that problem head-on, but Brown does propose paying off $11 billion in money the state raided from other funds to balance its budget in past years. And he wants to put away $1.6 billion in a rainy day fund. His plan is drawing some applause from advocates of spending restraint.

Mike Genest was state finance director under former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

MIKE GENEST: It's very hard in that the governor is sticking with his commitment to pay down debt, and especially to resist the temptation to create new programs, new state commitments.

GONZALES: The budget plan does seek to restore some cuts to social spending that were made in the past but not enough to satisfy social service advocates. Anthony Wright is the executive director of Health Access California.

ANTHONY WRIGHT: You know, the governor has talked about the parable of Joseph, of saving during the years of feast for the years of famine. But for many California families, were still in the years of famine.

GONZALES: Governor Brown's announcement today is only the first act in the state's budget play. Final budget numbers will come in what's known as the May revision. Richard Gonzales, NPR News, San Francisco.

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