Proposal would keep all of ag agency's 1,975 employees
By TIM HEARDEN
SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown predicted a rosy economic future for the Golden State on Jan. 10 as he unveiled California's first balanced budget proposal in many years.
Brown's proposed $97.6 billion general fund for fiscal 2013-14 makes use of Proposition 30's tax increases to boost spending on education and implement health care reform while wiping away what was a $25 billion state deficit when the governor took office.
Under the proposal, the Department of Food and Agriculture's ledger would remain fairly stable after the agency weathered more than $33 million in general fund cuts in the past two years.
General fund contributions to the CDFA would increase to $61.9 million next year from $60.3 million in the current fiscal year, according to an online budget narrative. The agency's overall 2013-14 spending is projected at $342.8 million.
The agency would keep all of its roughly 1,975 employees, including the nearly 1,270 in its agricultural plant and animal health, pest prevention and food safety services.
The status-quo budget comes after the department's annual general fund contribution dropped from $99 million a few years ago. Previous cuts primarily affected programs related to border control stations, pest prevention and food safety, the governor's office has explained.
"The budget cuts made in the last two years and the passage of Proposition 30 make it possible to both live within our means and to increase funding for education," Brown said Jan. 10 in prepared remarks at the Capitol.
The governor's proposal boosts funding for both public schools and higher education, adding $250 million for the University of California and California State University systems. The increases come after voters approved higher income and sales taxes in Proposition 30 in November, bringing relief to UC Cooperative Extension officials who feared further cuts.
The budget also includes an increase of $6.6 million and 59.3 new positions for the state Natural Resource Agency, the Water Resources Control Board and departments of Conservation, Forestry and Fire Protection and Fish and Wildlife.
The boost comes after the Legislature last year approved a 1 percent assessment on lumber and other building wood sold in California, which allowed the elimination of fees charged to in-state timber producers and lengthened the durations of timber harvest plans.
Brown's budget received mixed reviews from Republican George Runner, who represents most of the Central Valley on the state Board of Equalization. Runner praised the governor for championing fiscal discipline but said he hasn't done enough to spur job creation and economic growth.
"If the governor and Legislature want to ensure California's solvency, they need to help the private sector succeed in our state," Runner said in a statement. "That means fewer taxes and regulations, not more."
Brown's proposal envisions a surplus of $850 million. He will submit a revised proposal in May based on an updated economic outlook, and the ledger must be approved by the Legislature -- a prospect that will involve much less drama now that Democrats hold supermajorities in both chambers.
2013-14 Governor's Budget Summary: http://www.dof.ca.gov/documents/FullBudgetSummary_web2013.pdf
CDFA budget statement: http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/pdf/GovernorsBudget/8000/8570CO-RWA.pdf