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What Took Large Hits from Gov. Brown's Budget Plan?

Education took minimal cuts in Brown's proposed budget but the fate of a November tax initiative will ultimately decide the position of public schools.

With a suffocating $9.2 billion deficit in the state of California, Governor Jerry Brown last week released his budget proposal for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

Massive cuts and proposed taxes will be utilized in a plan developed to close the state’s structural deficit and long-term debt.

“This is not nice stuff,” Brown said in a press conference Thursday. “But that's what it takes to balance the budget and that's assuming we get the tax revenues."

 

Education

After massive cuts totaling nearly $18 billion in recent years, Governor Brown said $79.6 million slash is still to come for K-12 schools if not more.  

Though the managed for the 2010-2011 school year, K-3 class size restrictions are to be eliminated, and each student in the Redwood City School District will receive $13.25 less toward their education.

“The Governor has offered us a difficult but clear plan to address the challenges we face,” said State School Chief Tom Torkalson in a statement. “Even as it seeks to protect our schools from new across-the-board cuts, the budget lays out the stark choices that come with difficult times.”

Schools will continue to see cuts in all directions if Brown’s tax initiative, set to appear on the ballot in November, is not supported.

“The budget also makes it clear that meeting that obligation will require additional tax revenues—both to prevent new cuts and to finally turn the tide after years of devastating reductions to school budgets statewide,” Torkalson said.

The initiative seeks to increase California sales tax by a half-cent and raise the income tax for citizens who make a yearly income of $250,000 or more.

If it does not pass, Brown said, K-12 California schools would incur a pummeling $4.8 billion in cuts.

The shortage would equal a loss of three weeks of instruction.

Ron Bennett, CEO of School Services of California, said school districts would be best prepared if they planned their budget as if the tax initiative was to fail.

As for cuts to higher education, community college students will see a $10 increase per unit beginning the 2012 summer term.

 

State Parks

Approximately 70 of the California’s 278 state parks are set to close this year. 

Come July 1, San Mateo County will lose Gray Whale Cove State Beach, Portola Redwoods State Park and Castle Rock State Park.

California State Parks Foundation President Elizabeth Goldstein said that the governor is not promoting honest dialogue concerning state park closures.

“If it was, the governor would be honest with Californians about the safety impacts for the public that will result from the closing of 70 state parks,” Goldstein said in a statement. “The governor would be transparent about the economic impacts that closures will cause and exacerbate in struggling communities up and down the state that rely on park tourism.”

The closure of one-quarter of California’s state parks will account for $22 million reduction in the Department of Parks and Recreation. But much like K-12 education, state parks will also reap heavy consequences if Brown’s November tax initiative does not pass.

Twenty percent of park rangers and all lifeguards on state beaches would be removed from their positions.

“Proposing to eliminate all lifeguards on state beaches and one-fifth of all state park rangers is a grave threat to the public’s safe access to state parks,” Goldstein said. “This cut goes too far and must be stopped.”

Goldstein said the organization will continue to encourage Californians to mobilize and stand up for state parks as they call on lawmakers to react to the governor’s proposals.

“Californians are frustrated with their state parks being held hostage in the budget process,” Goldstein said. “Especially when the claims of “budget savings” from closures are unlikely to materialize, but are likely to end up costing the state and local communities.

 

High-Speed Rail

Though under heavy opposition, Brown voiced his continued support for the $98 billion .

Brown said he was hopeful the state’s investment would lead to green jobs and a cleaner environment when he announced the allocation of $15.9 million to the High-Speed Rail Authority.

“Governor Brown’s leadership and long-term vision for the future of this State will benefit generations to come,” said Modern High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Thomas Umberg in a statement. “Transportation infrastructure is fundamental to California’s future economic and environmental well-being.”

 

Response From Local Lawmakers

Assemblyman Rich Gordon, representative of San Mateo County, reacted to Governor Brown’s proposal with general approval when considering tough economic circumstances.

“There is still much work to be done in making sure California’s fiscal house is in order,” Gordon said. “However, I believe we are on the right track, and as a member of the Assembly Budget Committee, I look forward to the details of this proposal and getting to work immediately.” 

Although Gordon also stated that he could not fathom $9 billion in cuts, he commended the governor for his long-term plans and involvement of California voters.

“I believe the Governor took a balanced approach in proposing a fiscally responsible budget, accounting for both the fragile economy and struggling Californians,” Gordon said. “This budget takes initial steps to further reduce the State’s structural deficit and allows the State to eventually pay down long-term debt, and it asks voters to weigh-in on temporary tax increases.”

 

Welfare

The state's welfare-to-work program, CalWORKS, suffered one of the largest cuts, nearly $1 billion, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

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