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Gov. Jerry Brown sticks to hard line in revised budget proposal

Gov. Jerry Brown responds to a question concerning his revised 2013-14 state budget plan during a news conference at the Capitol in Sacramento on Tuesday.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown took a hard line Tuesday as he unveiled his latest budget plan, seeking to tighten general-fund spending and holding firm on his push to redistribute money for schools.

He proposed general-fund expenditures of $96.4 billion for the budget year that begins in July -- $1.3 billion less than he outlined in his initial plan in January.

In announcing the revised blueprint, the governor focused on school funding, a central part of his plan. He wants to send more money to districts that serve large numbers of poor students and non-native English speakers than to wealthier areas, while giving all of them more flexibility in how they spend state dollars.

DOCUMENT: Gov. Brown’s revised budget

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“I think it’s fair. I think it’s just,” Brown said. “I think it has great moral force.”

The governor’s January plan, containing many of the same elements, stirred controversy immediately. But Brown has budged in only a few areas.

For example, he still wants to make counties pay more for social welfare services, but he now says that change can be phased in over several years. And he will keep pushing to tie new state funding for universities to certain performance benchmarks, but he dropped a proposal to increase tuition for students who take excessive courses.

Brown’s new proposal also includes a $48-million increase to help poor Californians find jobs. And there’s an additional $72 million for probation departments to help handle the shift of responsibility for low-level offenders to the counties.

But the governor flatly said there was very little money available to significantly restore cuts made in social services in recent years to balance the budget. For example, he included no funding to restore adult dental care.

“The money is not there,” he said. “Anyone who thinks there is spare change around has not read the budget.”

California does have $4.5 billion more in its coffers than had been expected, due to a surge in tax receipts. However, administration officials expect that surplus to subside to $2.8 billion by June 30, which is the end of the current fiscal year, partly because officials expect less tax revenue in May and June than they had previously anticipated.

Brown’s plan for the new fiscal year reflects the belief that the flood of revenue is an aberration. Analysts have warned that it resulted when wealthy residents cashed out investments late last year to avoid higher federal income taxes.

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And because the federal government did not extend the payroll tax credit this year, the Brown administration cut in half its estimate for personal income growth.

In addition to general-fund money, the governor’s new budget plan includes $41.9 billion from funds dedicated to specific purposes and $7.4 billion from bonds, for a total of $145.7 billion.

Lawmakers are required to pass a budget by June 15, and Brown has until the end of June to sign it.

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Twitter: @chrismegerian

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