Report: Calif. spending budget not prioritized correctly

7:29 PM, Feb 20, 2013   |    comments
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SACRAMENTO, CA - As the state Legislature wrangles to come up with a new spending plan by June, a new report might open some eyes.

California Common Sense analyzed state budgets from 2007 to the proposed budget for 2013/2014 and found that:

  • Transportation spending for roads and transit went down by nearly one-third
  • Social services and public universities took a hit of 14 percent
  • Health care costs skyrocketed 62 percent
  • Retirement benefits jumped 25 percent
  • Employee compensation went up 16 percent

"The priorities of this building, the State Capitol, are not necessarily reflective of the priorities of Californians," Vice chairman of the budget committee Assm. Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, said. "They want to see more investment in education and more investment in infrastructure."

But critics question the study's methodology and even if you believe the numbers, they said they're being misinterpreted.

Mike Herald of the Western Center of Law & Poverty has been part of the budget fight for years, trying to save services for the poor. He said there are legal obligations the state must uphold.

It's in the state Constitution, for instance, that bondholders must be paid first. Labor contracts, too, where pay raises and pension payments are spelled out would be subject to lawsuits if the state didn't live up to them.

"As money got very tight, we had to make payments to certain things that we have obligations, other programs took cuts," Herald said. "Yes, we have higher health care costs, but we added a couple of million people to the Medi-Cal rolls during the recession because people lost their healthcare. So, yeah, we're obligated to pick them up under the law."

Voters helped stabilize the budget by passing temporary tax hikes under Proposition 30.

Gorell is pushing for lawmakers to freeze college tuition; Herald hopes services are restored for needy families.

By Nannette Miranda


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