Gov. Jerry Brown's revised state budget proposal released Monday increases the stakes of a public vote in November to raise taxes, a San Diego Unified School District official said.
Local school officials have been waiting for the “May revise” to judge the impact of lower-than-expected state revenues on funding for education.
“Nothing has improved for K-12 education in the May revise, which is what we expected,” said Bernie Rhinerson, the SDUSD chief of staff.
Based on the governor's original budget proposal in January, the state's second-largest school district expected to lose around $40 million if the tax increases fail at the ballot box, Rhinerson said. He said the new numbers still need to be crunched, but the revision could raise the potential setback to $42 million.
“It makes the (tax) initiative more important,” Rhinerson said.
Brown said the state's budget deficit has ballooned to about $16 billion since January, when it was estimated at about $9 billion.
“We're going to have to cut deeper,” the Democratic governor said in Sacramento.
“But cutting alone really doesn't do it,” Brown said. “That's why I'm linking these serious budget reductions –real increased austerity – with a plea to the voters: Please increase taxes temporarily on the most affluent and everyone else with a quarter of a cent sales tax.”
Funding for the state's two major university systems will remain a question, however, until the November election, when Brown asks voters to approve a bump in the state's 7.25 percent sales tax rate to 7.5 percent, and to increase the income tax rate on people earning more than $250,000 a year.
If the proposals fail, another $6 billion in cuts will take effect Jan. 1, including a $250 million cut to both the California State University and University of California systems -- likely meaning more cuts and tuition hikes.
“We very much appreciate the governor's hard work to avoid further direct cuts to higher education despite the steep growth in the size of the state deficit,” CSU Chancellor Charles Reed said. “Nevertheless, all Californians should be concerned about the serious long-term damage to student access to the California State University that is posed by the $250 million trigger cut.
“Combined with last year's $750 million cut, no easy options remain,” he said. “It will be extremely difficult to avoid impacts to program quality at our 23 campuses or impacts to access for students and the ability to serve them, with long-term consequences for workforce development and job growth in the state.”
Steve Montiel, spokesman for the UC president's office, also said officials there appreciate Brown's effort to maintain funding for the system, but the financial picture for the universities will remain in doubt until November.
“We will continue to seek a long-term funding agreement with the state that will provide the stable fiscal footing needed to preserve the university's quality, access and affordability,” he said.
Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher said the governor's revised spending plan fully funds implementation of Chelsea's Law, which tightens scrutiny of sexually violent offenders. The original budget proposal did not include full funding, according to the assemblyman, who recently left the Republican Party to become an independent.
“There is little good news in the budget today, but the public can take comfort knowing the commitment to protecting our children is strong,” said Fletcher, who is running for mayor of San Diego.
The law is named after Poway High School senior Chelsea King, who was murdered by a convicted a sex offender two years ago.
Assemblyman Marty Block, D-Bonita, said there was no way to sugarcoat the task before the Legislature.
“There are only tough choices,” Block said. “We must be guided by the most important priorities that reflect our core values – protecting public education and the most vulnerable while ensuring the continuation of essential services such as public safety.”
–City News Service