Gov. Jerry Brown approved a state budget during a busy Monday in the Capitol, where lawmakers made progress on a $2-billion proposal to shelter the homeless but put the brakes on new energy policies during an acrimonious hearing.
The $171-billion spending plan increases funding for state-subsidized child care and removes a limit on welfare payments for families who have additional children while receiving benefits.
It also boosts the state’s reserves, depositing an extra $2 billion into a rainy-day fund intended as a cushion against any future economic downturns.
“This solid budget makes responsible investments in California and sets aside billions of dollars to prepare for the next recession,” Brown said in a statement.
The governor didn’t veto anything from the budget legislation he signed, signaling an unusual level of agreement with lawmakers. In previous years, Brown has used his line-item veto power to make small changes, even if he agreed with the overall spending plan.
“California is in stronger fiscal shape than we have been for years,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) said in a statement.
More work remains on state spending. The budget sets aside $400 million for affordable housing, but it won’t be spent unless the governor and lawmakers reach a deal on streamlining regulations for building new homes. In addition, no agreement has been reached on how the state should spend revenue from its cap-and-trade program, or how it should fund billions of dollars in overdue road repairs.
“When it comes to homelessness, when it comes to mental illnesses, it is not a partisan issue,” said Senate leader Kevin de León of Los Angeles.
The bond would use revenue raised through Proposition 63, a voter-approved tax on millionaires. The modified legislation includes new requirements for overseeing how the money is spent, and the deal includes a separate bill that sets aside additional money for homeless veterans and youth.
“The millions in new funding championed by Republicans will help our homeless veterans and youth receive the shelter and support they need to get their lives back on track," Assembly Republican leader Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley said in a statement.
The Assembly is expected to approve the plan this week, sending it to the governor for his signature.
There was also bipartisan unity in the Senate Budget Committee, though it stemmed from frustration rather than cooperation. Lawmakers blocked energy proposals that Brown wanted included in budget legislation, saying the governor’s administration was trying to fast-track major policy changes without public scrutiny.
The proposals, the product of negotiations with Senate leadership, would double financial incentives for energy storage projects and extend subsidies for fuel cell technology.
Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), the vice chairman of the committee, called the administration’s effort “government at its very worst.” Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), the committee’s chairman, expressed his disappointment that the proposals were inserted without prior hearings.
Amy Costa, the governor’s chief deputy director of finance, defended the proposals as expansions of existing, successful programs intended to foster more clean-energy generation. But senators said they would hold off voting on the measure.
“I’m not arguing the policy,” Leno said. “But I think it’s our job ... to better understand that policy.”