At the most basic level, California’s budget allocates money to state programs for the year. But Governor Jerry Brown also wants to use it to push his agenda.
With a rare budget surplus on the books, California lawmakers are looking at restoring some past budget cuts. But Brown is taking the opportunity to tie funding increases to reforms in the way the state’s universities and trial courts operate. For example, his latest budget proposal ties funding increases for the state’s public universities to tuition freezes through the next three school years. And Brown is proposing a funding increase of $160 million dollars for the trial courts this year, but wants court employees to contribute more to their pensions.
Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson says Brown often uses this carrot-and-stick approach.
“Certainly what he said to higher education, and to the court system, is, you’re not going to get as much money as you wanted to,” she says. “And we’re going to use the budget, in some ways, as a bargaining chip to make sure that you function as efficiently as possible.”
And Brown’s tactics are common. Sacramento State Political Science Professor Kim Nalder says governments have linked money and policies for years.
“Congress in the 1980’s wanted to raise the drinking age across the country but that’s a state by state process,” she says. “So the way they got it to happen was tying it to highway funds. And, much to the chagrin of 18 to 20 year olds across the country, that worked.”
Brown’s plans are facing resistance from legislative Democrats, who are pushing to give more money to the UC, CSU and court systems than the governor has proposed.
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