LETTER TO THE COMMUNITY: Sen. Christine Kehoe updates on state budget developments

On Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown released the May revision of his state budget plan. I want to take this opportunity to give you an update.

Protects education, public safety

The Governor reported a net increase in state revenue which is good news to help the state fund important core services for Californians. The Governor protects education and public safety, and the new revenues help reduce the deficit, but they fall far short of eliminating it. A deficit of nearly $9.6 billion remains. The state's fiscal realities have resulted in the slashing of the size of government, cutting billions of dollars out of the budget over the past three years. In education alone – which is critical for California's future – this includes a three-year total of $20 billion in cuts across K-12, UC, CSU and our community colleges. These cuts were painful but necessary. Now, however, I believe we have cut enough.

The Governor's budget plan makes necessary tough decisions; including his proposal to maintain two of the existing temporary tax rates which will result in eight billion dollars annually for five additional years. Without the serious, long-term solutions that the Governor is proposing, California will face $10 billion budget deficits in each of the next three years. Business leaders and economists have told us the key element needed to grow the economy and create jobs is for the state to stabilize its budget. Eliminating fiscal and economic uncertainty will establish more stability in the bond markets for California, and provide an economic boost by making our state a better place to do business.

Pension, labor savings

Last year, Senate Democrats passed several measures that made some important changes in our public pensions. These improvements will save the state hundreds of millions of dollars annually, and are projected to save a total of $13 billion over the next 30 years. And now, we have just sent a series of new public employee labor agreements to the Governor that will save hundreds of millions of dollars more beginning immediately, and which make additional ongoing improvements to our pension system. Despite these savings, only two Senate Republicans supported the new Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs).

Governor Brown has already signed a bill that realigned public safety responsibilities from the state to the counties, taking low-level offenders out of the expensive state prison system and utilizing capacity in county jails. Public safety realignment and the funding needed to make it work are concepts endorsed by California sheriffs, police chiefs and probation officers. They know they can do a better job at the local level. No one understands public safety more than the professionals who put their lives on the line working in the criminal justice system every day.

No more "kicking the can"

Finally, for the first time since I arrived in Sacramento, we have a Governor who is refusing to "kick the can" further down the road, and is truly committed to putting the state's fiscal house in order. He recognizes that if we are ever going to restore fiscal responsibility and improve the state's credit rating, we must begin to pay down our accumulated "wall of debt."

The Governor's revised budget proposal continues drastic reductions in state services and expenditures, and demonstrates the need for additional stable revenues for long-term budget solutions. The Senate will begin budget hearings on the Governors' May Revision immediately.
Now that we have updated revenue numbers we can work towards an agreement on solutions that will make our budget whole and provide fiscal stability for the coming years. With the goal of an on-time budget we will work day and night on closing the deal.

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