SCV state representatives had mixed reactions to the news Gov. Jerry Brown is using a $8.8 billion surplus in reserves for future projects, according to the May Revise of the 2018-19 budget released Friday.
Brown proposed a $137.6 billion budget plan with some money sent to reserves in state savings accounts. He suggested that $5.8 billion would go into savings, and then $2 billion of the surplus would be spent on a $20 billion backlog of maintenance projects, including levees in need of repair.
The funds left would be used to help local governments grappling with homelessness, mental health services, the state’s earthquake early warning system and voting equipment upgrades, Brown said.
Assemblyman Dante Acosta, R-Santa Clarita, believed it was risky for the money to go toward significant infrastructure programs, a move he said was not sustainable.
“This one act of fiscal prudence doesn’t make up for the fact that spending is still increasing (by over $5 billion),” Acosta said. “The current surplus also calls into question the dozens of bills working their way through the Legislature which would raise taxes by tens of billions of dollars on Californians.”
Acosta told the Signal on Wednesday that he believed the state should spend money on one-time use infrastructural projects, not funnel more for long-term programs. In case income dips in the future, Acosta said, the state would better off investing in immediate needs.
“If we continue to add programs that increase spending, then we’re jeopardizing the health of the budget,” Acosta said of Brown’s proposal. “We should focus more on the core missions of the state, such as public safety, education and addressing housing affordability and homelessness.”
Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, also said extra tax dollars should be funding more short-term needs.
“These extra tax dollars should should be funding one-time expenses like fixing our roads and critical infrastructure,” he said. “It’s hard to understand why California raised its gas and car taxes by over $5 billion when the money is clearly already there to pay for transportation improvements and repairs.”
State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Antelope Valley, applauded Brown’s proposal.
“Today’s announcement of an almost $9 billion budget surplus leaves little doubt our economy is thriving,” he said in a statement. “I applaud Gov. Brown for prioritizing infrastructure, homelessness and the state’s rainy day fund. Now is the time for fiscal restraint and forward thinking. An all-out spending spree ignores our financial problems and creates further hardship when money is scarce.”
A representative from the office of Sen. Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park, was not available for comment.
Brown’s plans calls for $137.6 billion in general fund spending and $199.3 billion in total spending.
The year’s tax revenues are coming in at almost $3 billion ahead of Brown’s original projections in January of a $6 billion surplus.
Brown warned at a news conference Friday that the state should avoid long-term commitments in case a recession hit.
“This is a time to save for our future, not to make pricey promises we can’t keep,” he said. “Let’s not blow it now.”