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The state's fiscal analyst has explained one way lawmakers could avoid Gov. Jerry Brown's deepest cuts, but the Legislature's top education finance aide said today that solution is unconstitutional.

Rick Simpson, the Assembly's education finance guru, said he believes Brown accurately calculated how much the state owes K-12 schools and community colleges at $53.7 billion in 2012-13. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office contends that Brown overestimated that amount by $1.7 billion.

Simpson said he wrote the language in the 2009 budget bill spelling out the formula by which the state must pay schools in years when revenues grow faster than inflation and attendance. "The governor is following what the law says," Simpson said today.

He added that he believes the law merely confirms what voters placed in the constitution with Proposition 98 and Proposition 111.

But the Analyst's Office says that interpretation leads to "irrational outcomes" - such as when Brown announced last week that California owes schools more money despite revenues being lower than expected.

The outcome of the disagreement will likely affect how other programs are treated in the budget and how voters view Brown's push for tax increases in November.

LAO education analyst Edgar Cabral reiterated today, "We think our interpretation is the correct interpretation." Even if the 2009 bill spells out a different formula, Cabral noted that it can be reversed through new legislation and does not reflect what his office believes is in the constitution.


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