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Gov. Jerry Brown's new budget boasts that even with new taxes, general fund spending is below the record $103 billion that it reached in 2007-08, just before a severe recession hit the state.

But that claim is fudging a bit. Brown's budget would spend, he says, $97.7 billion in 2013-14, but the number doesn't include $5.3 billion that the state is now sending to counties to pay for "realignment" of some social and correctional programs to local control.

That's money that used to flow into and out of the general fund. When it's added to the projected spending for 2013-14, the total is $103 billion -- thus equaling the record set six years earlier, not taking inflation into account.

The budget also says that general fund spending "remains at its lowest level since 1972-73" by inflation-adjusted measures such as a proportion of personal income. But that, too, doesn't take into account big changes that have been made since then in how money is allocated, such as "realignment" and dozens of other shifts between local and state levels.

The realignment funds, for instance, are now counted as a "special fund" expenditure. When the general and special funds are merged, spending rises to $138.6 billion. And when $7.2 billion in bond spending and about $80 billion in federal funds are included, the total budget jumps to about $225 billion.


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