School Funding Initiative Given Higher Price Tag

Times Staff Writer

State Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig Wednesday raised his estimate of the cost of Proposition 98, the school funding initiative, saying the price tag may be as much as $65 million a year more than voters were told.

Legislation being drafted by Assemblywoman Teresa Hughes (D-Los Angeles) and backed by Honig would give schools a budget increase of $250 million to $280 million for the remainder of the current fiscal year.

The legislative analyst’s office, in the ballot pamphlet that was sent to voters before the Nov. 8 election, had estimated the first-year cost of Proposition 98 at $215 million. Since then, the analyst’s office has revised that estimate downward to $200 million, and is sticking by that figure.

Honig and Hughes said their estimates are higher now because state tax receipts are coming in above expectations.


However, the most recent report by the legislative analyst’s office, released Dec. 23, said that tax receipts “are basically on track.”

Honig’s push for a higher amount comes as Democrats and Republicans in the Capitol are complaining that the costs of implementing Proposition 98 are putting a severe strain on the $44-billion state budget.

Proposition 98 earmarks roughly 40% of the state’s general fund budget for public schools and community colleges.

Other Programs May Be Cut

Gov. George Deukmejian, putting finishing touches on the new budget he will propose next week for the fiscal year that begins July 1, has warned that he may advocate reducing state financial support for universities, mental health programs and aid to counties because of Proposition 98 and other restraints on the budget.

Honig and Hughes defended the higher figure at a Capitol news conference, although they said it was subject to change.

Hughes said her bill to implement Proposition 98 “represents a straightforward, reasonable, and fair interpretation of the language of the initiative.”