Senate leader Darrell Steinberg said Wednesday that Gov. Jerry Brown's revised state budget doesn't do enough to acknowledge the Californians who have been damaged by years of program cuts and suggested the state could divert more money to them by taking a different approach to setting aside money for the rainy-day fund.
The Sacramento Democrat said he will continue to push for expanding California's public preschool program as the Legislature negotiates the state budget with Brown in the coming weeks. He also called out funding for courts, universities and Medi-Cal reimbursement as areas he thinks are inadequate in the budget proposal Brown released Tuesday.
"We have more than lifted to meet the governor's agenda, and his top priority on this. It's time that he do a little lifting as well to help meet our priorities," Steinberg said to reporters.
"It's a two-way street."
Brown's budget sets aside $3.7 billion in reserves and debt payments, Steinberg said. But California could instead set aside $2.4 billion for those purposes, he said, by applying the formula laid out in the rainy-day fund agreement legislative leaders have negotiated with Brown. That approach, if it passes the Legislature, will go before voters this November.
"So when the question gets asked, 'Where are you going to find the money?' Here is a place to start," Steinberg said of the $1.3 billion difference.
Proposition 58, approved by voters in March 2004, requires an annual transfer of 3 percent of general fund revenue to the Budget Stabilization Account. The requirement has been suspended in all but one year, though.
Brown's budget sets aside 3 percent of revenue — half of the money would go to paying off debt-refinancing bonds approved along with Prop. 58 and the other half would be saved.
"What it appears the Pro Tem is suggesting is that instead of a 3 percent deposit, a deposit of 1.5 percent of general fund revenues be made into the Budget Stabilization Account," Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said. "The governor's budget — both in January and as revised in May — makes that 3 percent deposit as required by Proposition 58, and does not reflect a suspension of that transfer."
PHOTO: Senate leader Darrell Steinberg presents his idea for a rainy-day fund approach to reporters on May 14, 2014.