California Governor Jerry Brown on Thursday is set to propose a budget that increases public spending in areas including education, the latest indication of the most populous U.S. state’s rebound from years of economic doldrums.
Brown, a Democrat, will release a budget plan at the State Capitol Thursday morning that is expected to top $115 billion in spending from what is known as the general fund, the money appropriated by the legislature and approved by the governor each year. The expected spending increase for the fiscal year beginning July 2016 reflects unexpectedly higher revenues at the end of 2015.
The 77-year-old, who also served as governor from 1975 to 1983, has been notoriously tight-fisted since returning to office in 2011, reining in the state’s liberal Democratic majority lawmakers to build a rainy-day fund and hold down expenses after facing down a $27 billion budget deficit.
H.D. Palmer, the governor’s spokesman on financial issues, confirmed on Wednesday that Brown would propose spending more on education and other issues. However, he declined to specify what those other areas might include.
Palmer said Brown would also address spending on health care and the state’s crumbling infrastructure on Thursday but added that the fiscally moderate Democrat would continue to chart a prudent course.
Last year, the state’s final budget reached a total of $168 billion, of which about $115 billion was general fund spending controlled by the legislature and governor.
Since voters in 2012 approved a temporary tax increase that allowed the state to cover its budget gap and restore some social services, California’s finances have stabilized.
Brown has been willing to restore some of the deep cuts made during the financial crisis to social services, health care, education and other programs.
But his fiscal caution has left many advocates for the poor and disabled angry, and frustrated some of his fellow Democrats in the legislature.
One area likely to gain scrutiny on Thursday is funding to help people with disabilities, which Brown has previously refused to restore, saying that the legislature needed to find new ways to pay for such programs before he would agree.
Brown’s proposal must still be approved by the legislature and will likely change between now and the end of June, when a spending and revenue package for the 2016-2017 fiscal year must be enacted.
(Sharon Bernstein reported from Sacramento; Robin Respaut reported from San Francisco; Editing by Diane Craft)