Governor Jerry Brown says the budget deficit has been wiped out, and per-pupil funding in K-12 will go up almost $2,700 by 2016 under a controversial proposal to give schools more money if they have higher numbers of low-income and non-English-speaking students.
"Growing up in Compton or Richmond is not like it is to grow up in Los Gatos or Beverly Hills or Piedmont," said Brown.
Higher education will see a bump of $2,000 or so per student in the same time period, all thanks to a rebounding economy and California voters for approving the tax hikes under Proposition 30 in November.
"They voted for the tax revenue, we're putting money into schools, as I said," said Brown. "But we're also not going to play the game of spending money we don't have."
In fact, the $98-billion budget plan includes a $1-billion "rainy day fund."
While Democrats like the blueprint, the proposal also drew cautious praise from Republicans.
"I think the governor deserves credit for advancing a budget plan that generally imposes fiscal restraint at a time when we absolutely need it," said state Assembly Budget Vice-Chairman Jeff Morrell (R-Camarillo).
But those who rely on social services were disappointed. With state coffers improving, they thought some of the safety net programs would have been restored.
Thousands, for instance, have been living without dental care. Florence Stafford lost her subsidized dental care. She was counting on being able to get dentures so can look for a job.
"You could tell right now I need a lot of dental care," said Stafford. "It's hard. The only places you can go to right now, they're only doing extractions."
Democratic leaders, though, said Proposition 30 money is specifically for schools.
"Prop. 30 was a question of funding the budget that we had identified, not yet a question of funding restoration of cuts," said state Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles).
This is just the first step. The tax revenue picture will become clearer by May and adjustments can be made. Lawmakers must approve a final budget by June 15.