Budget triggers mixed reaction from legislators


Santa Clarita-based legislators offered tempered reactions to Gov. Jerry Brown’s $131.7 billion budget proposal unveiled Wednesday.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle cheered the governor’s plan to add $3.5 billion into the state’s Rainy Day Fund, while Republicans repeatedly pointed to the budget surplus as a means to help taxpayers.

“The Legislative Analyst’s Office has projected a $7.5 billion budget surplus, providing us an opportunity to begin addressing our challenges,” Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, said. “I look forward to a robust discussion with my colleagues on the Senate Budget Committee as to how these additional taxpayer dollars can be used to bolster our rainy day fund, pay down debt, maximize education funding and grow our economy.”

Brown seemed to favor fiscal restraint in the budget by allotting an extra $3.5 billion payment to the state’s Rainy Day Fund as a firewall against a potential economic downturn. The payment, in addition to the constitutionally-mandated payment, would bring the total Rainy Day Fund from $8.4 billion to $13.5 billion.

“California has faced ten recessions since World War II and we must prepare for the eleventh. Yes, we have had some very good years and program spending has increased steadily,” he said in his budget letter to the Legislature. “Let’s not blow it now.”

Assemblyman Dante Acosta, R-Santa Clarita, said the surplus “is evidence that Californians are taxed to the hilt.”

“We must be careful to only use the surplus for one-time investments and not government programs that commit us to ongoing spending,” he said. “Sacramento needs to secure a safe future for Californians by investing in the rainy day reserve, improving infrastructure, and reducing our debt.”

Brown’s office said he identified a $35 billion “Wall of Debt” in 2011, saying it included deferrals and budgetary obligations accumulated over 10 years. The governor’s office said the debt has been reduced to less than $6 billion.

Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, whose district includes the northern edges of the Santa Clarita Valley, said the surplus should go toward transportation.

“With California projected to have a budget surplus of several billion dollars, it’s hard to understand why we just raised gas and car taxes on drivers by $5 billion per year,” he said. “We should put half of the surplus into the state’s rainy day account and use the other half to make a one-time investment into fixing and expanding our transportation network. California’s budget has never been larger and if we make smart decisions we can meet our infrastructure needs without raising taxes.”

Brown said $4.6 billion of his budget includes: $2.8 billion for repairing roads, highways and bridges, $721 million for public transit and passenger rail improvements, $556 million for trade and commerce corridors such as the Golden State Freeway and $200 million for matching local funds for transportation projects. The funding is part of Senate Bill 1, the law that increased gas taxes on drivers statewide.

The office of Sen. Henry Stern, D-Calabasas, whose district includes Stevenson Ranch, did not return requests for comment.

The full summary of the Governor’s budget proposal can be found at www.ebudget.ca.gov.

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