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Newsom unveils a $209-billion budget to boost schools and health care in California

John Myers, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a $209-billion budget on Thursday that boosts funding for public schools and health care programs and includes significant one-time spending to combat the state's homelessness epidemic and prepare for future natural disasters.

"I know it's rote and cliche to say it's a reflection of our values, but it is a reflection of our values," Newsom said at a news conference in Sacramento. "It is demonstrable that these dollars attach to real people and real people's lives."

The governor promised to balance his ambitious campaign platform with the need to protect California's finances in the event of an economic slide. The spending in his proposal reflects that approach. Much of it would not be for ongoing services, a page borrowed from the playbook of his predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown.

"The message we are advancing here is discipline," Newsom said.

The plan sent to the Legislature for the fiscal year that begins in July seeks a 4 percent boost in the state's general fund spending over current levels. Some increases were expected -- the budget is built on a series of mandates that earmark revenues or programs where costs are determined by the number of eligible Californians who enroll. Almost all of the projected $2.3 billion in higher state spending for schools, for example, is driven by California's constitutional requirement governing education finance.

But other key spending proposals suggest the new Democratic governor views his victory last November as a clear mandate to pursue an expansive agenda that will focus first on efforts aimed at young children and poor families.

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"At a time where folks seem to be backing away, we're going to lean in" to fund social services programs, Newsom said.

Newsom's budget proposes a $1-billion "working families tax credit," more than double the size of the state's existing tax break for low-income workers. The budget would noticeably expand eligibility for the tax break to those who earn up to $15 an hour, estimated by the administration to add up to 400,000 additional families.

The governor also will ask lawmakers to increase monthly welfare assistance grants under the state's CalWORKS program, building on an effort led by lawmakers over the past two years.

Efforts to help ease California's housing and homelessness crises would also be bolstered under the spending plan, with $500 million to be set aside to help local governments build shelters and add services to help the homeless.

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