SACRAMENTO (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown will took a victory lap Wednesday when he signed a $139 billion California budget that marks a stark turnaround from the financial crisis he inherited seven years ago.
Nearing the end of his final term as governor, Brown has celebrated the state’s financial strength and thriving economy, even as President Donald Trump and his allies paint the nation’s most populous state as a place in decline.
Brown has largely eschewed the pomp and circumstance of his office in recent years, rarely signing bills in public ceremonies. But he’s savoring the spotlight for his 16th and final budget, which he’ll sign into law in front of cameras at a state office building in downtown Los Angeles.
Brown, who leaves office in January, will appear alongside Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, the top legislative Democrats with whom he negotiated the final budget agreement.
The budget boosts funding for higher education, staving off tuition increases, and increasing welfare grants that have been slow to return to their pre-recession levels. It creates more slots for subsidized child care and gives a raise to doctors and dentists who see low-income patients on the state Medicaid program, Medi-Cal, which covers one in three Californians.
It also seeks to tackle the housing and homelessness crisis, a problem that has exploded in prominence on Brown’s watch as more Californians struggle to make ends meet and find an affordable place to live.
The spending plan fills the state rainy day fund to its constitutional maximum and beefs up other reserve funds, boosting the state’s total savings to $16 billion.
Even more money is set aside for specific one-time purposes such as building construction and maintenance — projects that could easily be canceled if the state runs into trouble.
Still, massive debts remain for pensions and retiree health care. And California relies immensely on income taxes collected from the wealthy — a revenue source that is extremely volatile. Brown frequently warns that California could see revenue plummet rapidly if another recession strikes.
Brown has tangled with the Trump administration on a wide range of issues, particularly immigration and the environment. Trump said California is “out of control,” taking sharp aim at the state’s efforts to the protect immigrants living in the country illegally from deportation. In a tweet urging supporters to back Republican John Cox to replace Brown, Trump referred to “High Tax, High Crime California.”
Brown, by contrast, portrays California on a march toward the future and points to its thriving economy as evidence as evidence that high taxes and aggressive business regulations aren’t an impediment.
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press.