FILE - In this May 11, 2018, file photo, Gov. Jerry Brown gestures toward a chart showing the increase in K-14 school funding, while discussing his revised 2018-19 state budget at a Capitol news conference in Sacramento, Calif. Brown is preparing to sign a $139 billion budget that marks a stark turnaround for a state he inherited in the throes of a financial crisis. Brown will sign a spending plan Wednesday, June 27, 2018, in Los Angeles that boosts state savings to $16 billion thanks to a massive budget surplus. The budget boosts funding for higher education, increases welfare grants and creates more slots for subsidized child care. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Brown takes victory lap as he signs California budget

June 27, 2018 - 1:57 pm

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown took a victory lap Wednesday after he signed a $139 billion California budget that marks a stark turnaround from the financial crisis he inherited almost eight years ago.

Nearing the end of his second two-term stint as governor, Brown has celebrated the state's financial strength and thriving economy, even as President Donald Trump and his allies paint the nation's most populous state as a place in decline.

Brown has largely eschewed the pomp and circumstance of his office in recent years, rarely signing bills in public ceremonies. But he's savoring the spotlight for his last budget, which he signed into law in front of cameras at a state office building in downtown Los Angeles.

"This is a budget that represents the collective effort of the people of California," Brown said. "This is the way we together, 40 million people, invest in our collective future."

Brown said he took office in 2011 with a $27 billion deficit and pledged to fix it, adding that his signature Wednesday "fulfills that pledge and prepares us for the future."

The spending plan fills the state rainy day fund to its constitutional maximum and beefs up other reserve funds, boosting the state's total savings to $16 billion.

Even more money is set aside for specific one-time purposes such as building construction and maintenance — projects that could easily be canceled if the state runs into trouble.

Still, massive debts remain for pensions and retiree health care. And California relies immensely on income taxes collected from the wealthy — a revenue source that is extremely volatile. Brown frequently warns that California could see revenue plummet rapidly if another recession strikes.

Brown, who leaves office in January, appeared alongside Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, the top legislative Democrats with whom he negotiated the final budget agreement.

The budget includes $138.7 billion from the state's general fund. Including bonds and special funds that must be used for specific purposes, total state spending tops $201 billion.

Brown did not use his line-item veto authority, which allows him to strike specific expenditures from the spending plan.

By law, about half of the budget goes to K-12 schools and community colleges.

The budget boosts funding for higher education, staving off tuition increases, and increasing welfare grants that have been slow to return to their pre-recession levels. It creates more slots for subsidized child care and gives a raise to doctors and dentists who see low-income patients on the state Medicaid program, Medi-Cal, which covers one in three Californians.

It also seeks to tackle the housing and homelessness crisis, a problem that has exploded on Brown's watch as more Californians struggle to make ends meet and find an affordable place to live.

Brown has tangled with the Trump administration on a range of issues, particularly immigration and the environment. Trump said California is "out of control," taking sharp aim at the state's efforts to the protect immigrants living in the country illegally from deportation. In a tweet urging supporters to back Republican John Cox to replace Brown, Trump referred to "High Tax, High Crime California."

Brown, by contrast, portrays California on a march toward the future and points to its thriving economy as evidence as evidence that high taxes and aggressive business regulations aren't an impediment.

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