They’re Bullish On The Budget

State Sen. Anthony Portantino and Assembly Member Chris Holden — South Pasadena’s representatives in Sacramento — both issued statements last week praising Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed $222 billion state budget, particularly regarding the spending plan’s education and homelessness elements.

“The 2020-2021 budget shows California to be in an extremely strong position for both the present and the future,’’ Portantino, of the 25th Senate District, said after Newsom announced his spending plan — the biggest in state history.

Said Holden, of the 41st Assembly District: “Gov. Newsom’s proposal lays out a balanced and responsible budget that also reflects California’s progressive gains in these challenging times.’’

The governor’s budget, grounded in a strong state economy — though one he acknowledged might be slowing down — features, among other notable points: boosts in education funding, a new $750 million fund to address the state’s homeless crisis and a revamping of Medi-Cal, the state’s health-care program aimed at low-income people.

There also are provisions to address the state’s teacher shortage and to grow early-childhood school programs.

Both Portantino and Holden are Democrats, as is Newsom. Both houses of the state Legislature are controlled by Democrats, and the budget is expected to pass.

The budget projects a $5.6 billion surplus — healthy, but still smaller than the anticipated $21 billion surplus for 2019-2020. The state’s so-called “rainy-day fund” also grows by some $2 billion under the proposed spending plan, reaching around $18 billion.

All those numbers led Newsom to give an overall bullish outlook, while still cautioning, “While we’ve enjoyed 11 years of growth and expansion, that is not a permanent state. We’re not seeing a contracting economy, we’re seeing a slowing down of our economic growth.”

“I am proud of the work that Gov. Newsom and the Legislature have done over the years to get our budget to the place that it is today,’’ Portantino said in a lengthy statement, going over the budget’s major elements almost point by point.

“The 2020-2021 budget shows California to be in an extremely strong position for both the present and the future. … What might be most exciting about that is that the Rainy-Day Fund is approaching its 10 percent cap, showing that the state is fiscally responsible in creating a strong reserve fund while continuing to spend progressively on important issues.’’

Portantino also offered praise for the budget’s education aspects.

“I very much appreciate the governor’s $84 billion investment in our education system, which is the highest investment ever for California,’’ Portantino said.

“Included in this, the budget allocates $900 million to combat teacher shortages and an $895 million investment in special education with the $895 million representing a $255 million increase. Lastly, in regards to K-12 education, I am excited by the budget including $300 million in one-time grants to develop community school models that support mental health. There is a mental health crisis amongst our children that we need to deal with and hopefully this will help us to do so.’’

Portantino did offer one “concern” in his otherwise laudatory litany, in regard to the proposed education budget — saying “the cost-of-living adjustment for the Local Control Funding Formula did not reach the 3 percent target that I had hoped for and I will look into how we can reach that goal.’’

“Despite this, overall I am very excited about the K-12 education budget and look forward to continued work,’’ he said. “In addition to K-12 education, the budget has allocated $36 billion for higher education, which is $111 million higher than last year. This money will allow more of California’s students to attend college. …’’

Regarding the proposed $750 million California Access to Housing and Services Fund to address the homeless crisis, Portantino said, “For many in California, the cost of housing is simply out of reach, which often leads to homelessness. … This money will be dedicated to funding services and creating truly affordable housing units for those most in need, which is something that California desperately needs and should be one of the state’s main objectives in regards to housing.’’

The senator also pointed to a proposed reduction in the minimum franchise tax for new small businesses.

As for Holden, he said in a statement, “The governor is proposing a historic level of investments in education totaling over $100 billion for K-12 and higher education. These investments will be critical to closing the achievement gap in California and increasing the quality of education for all our students. ‘’   

Holden also said the proposed new homeless fund, “offers a great starting point to shelter individuals without a roof over their head.’’

And the assemblyman liked what he saw on matters related to the environment and climate change.

“As we continue to experience the effects of climate change like catastrophic wildfires among others disasters, Gov. Newsom’s $12.5 billion climate budget shows his commitment to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, and to strengthening our resiliency plan in the face of an already changing climate,’’ Holden said.