Panel Votes to Restore $76 Million in School Aid

Times Staff Writer

The Assembly Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday voted approval, 12 to 7, for legislation to restore $76.2 million in public school aid vetoed by Gov. George Deukmejian last year.

Two bills, carried by Sen. Barry Keene of Benicia, the Senate Democratic floor leader, and Assemblywoman Teresa P. Hughes (D-Los Angeles), chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee, went to the full Assembly.

They would provide $53.4 million to urban and rural school districts for kindergarten through 12th-grade programs, including special programs needed by economically disadvantaged students and busing students who live in sparsely populated areas.

The bills would also earmark $22.9 million for declining enrollment aid to community college districts.

During the hearing, Keene told the committee that new figures from December and January prepared by the legislative analyst indicate an unexpected surge of revenue totaling $550 million. This occurs in the wake of Gov. George Deukmejian's ordering state agencies in December to tighten their belts because of a projected shortfall of tax receipts.

Keene said the unanticipated funds will be enough to finance his bill as well as $90 million in other budget deficiencies and still leave the governor with a $551-million year-end reserve. This would be half of what Deukmejian wants to keep in reserve.

"We have enough money to keep our promises to schoolchildren and community college students without shortchanging elderly retired employees," Keene said.

Deukmejian agreed to fund the education programs only if the Legislature agreed to take the money from surplus earnings generated by the Public Employees Retirement System, a proposal that Democrats rejected. He vetoed the funds in an effort to pressure the Democrats into going along with his plan.

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