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Brown signs state budget in San Diego

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Gov. Jerry Brown signed California's $156 billion budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year at a ceremony Friday in San Diego.

Brown -- joined at the signing ceremony by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley -- described the spending plan as "not perfect" but a sign of California's fiscal progress over the past few years.

"What this budget shows is balance, paying down debts, putting almost $10 billion into public schools, creating a rainy day fund and starting to really tie up and shore up the teachers' retirement fund," Brown said.

He said it also was a sign that the state government was working, and that the majority could actually govern, with cooperation from the minority party.

The visit to San Diego was the third during the budget cycle for Brown, who was in town on the day his budget proposal was released in January, and last month when he issued revisions. He said he wanted to sign the budget in San Diego out of respect for Atkins, who took over leadership of the Legislature's lower chamber last month.

The state spending plan for the fiscal year starting July 1 includes a $1.6 billion "Rainy Day Fund" and $142 million for drought-response measures, such as firefighting, water management, wildlife preservation and food assistance.

Last month, the governor reached an agreement with the Legislature on the reserve fund that would would:

-- require the state to bank large increases in capital gains revenues, which are the most volatile form of tax income;

-- require supplemental payments to accelerate the payoff of the debts and liabilities;

-- raise the dollar amount the rainy day fund to 10 percent of the general fund revenue;

-- allows withdrawals to be made from the fund when needed during recessions, within prescribed limits; and

-- creates a reserve account for education to avoid future funding cuts.

He said the fund would be "untouchable" while he was in office, until it was needed due to poor economic conditions.

Additional agreements with legislative leaders last week will add at least $180 million in overtime pay for healthcare workers who provide care to the disabled and elderly in their homes, direct a quarter of cap-and-trade revenue toward construction of a high-speed rail line and expand preschool opportunities for economically disadvantaged children.

"No budget is perfect, and no one got everything that they wanted," Atkins said. "But with this budget, that ensures stability and expands opportunity, we have a chance to put the great recession even further behind us."

The general fund, for discretionary spending, will be almost $108 billion.

Brown's Republican opponent in the November election, former Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari, said the budget "powerfully demonstrates how out of touch Sacramento is with the rest of California."

"While so many California families struggle to make ends meet, the Legislature has approved a $156 billion budget that will set another new spending record and is more than $15 billion higher than the 2013-14 budget," Kashkari said."Governor Brown and his special interest allies also included a last-minute proposal limiting the amount of money school districts can save in their reserve accounts.

"By micro-managing the finances of school districts, Brown and the Legislature are forcing school districts to operate without a safety net and could push already struggling districts to the breaking point," Kashkari said.

After signing the budget, Brown traveled to Los Angeles for a function with Latino legislators.

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