Republicans push school funding plan to counter Gov. Jerry Brown
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Republicans will outline on Thursday an extensive plan to negate the need for devastating trigger cuts to California schools if Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax plan fails.
The options include the type of temporary fixes and financial reshuffling that Republicans have criticized in the past, but the plan says that business as usual in Sacramento is better than risking a devastating blow to education.
“There is no reason to hold our schools hostage to the uncertainties of the proposed tax increase initiative that may not benefit our students,” top Republican lawmakers wrote to Brown and Democratic leaders. “With political will, we can ensure that our schools are protected from trigger cuts, whether the governor’s tax initiative is ultimately accepted or rejected by voters.”
Schools and colleges would lose more than $5 billion if voters reject Brown’s plan to raise taxes in November. Because cutting budgets in the middle of the academic year would be difficult, some schools could make cuts as a precaution if the taxes fail.
Republicans said the state will need $3.4 billion to eliminate the trigger cuts, and their plan offers $4.4 billion in options to cover the gap.
The largest chunk of savings comes from tactics used by Democrats to balance the budget last year — diverting funds away from their voter-mandated purposes to shore up healthcare costs. Republicans say that will free up $1.56 billion to spend on schools.
Some of the scrounged money would come from canceling Brown’s effort to pay back some of the state’s debt. And there’s $1 billion available because redevelopment agencies are being dissolved, money Republicans say Brown did not factor into his budget proposal.
Republicans said another $243 million can come from trimming government or increasing efficiency, such as cutting $15 million from the California Science Center in Los Angeles and saving $20 million by improving the way the prison system manages drug prescriptions.
Because Democrats control the Legislature by a large margin, the Republican plan is likely to serve as more of a political statement than a potential policy blueprint. But by outlining ways to avoid trigger cuts, Republicans hope to undercut the primary rationale for Brown’s tax hike proposal –- that new taxes are needed to save schools.
-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento