After months of intense negotiations and wrangling, the governor’s proposed budget for 2012-13 was passed by the legislature. It remains, however, dependent on the passage of the Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act in the November 2012 election.

In effect, the state is facing two budget scenarios.

The first scenario cuts and combines programs while funding schools, public safety officers and on-going programs. This scenario is dependent on voter passage of the governor’s proposed, temporary tax initiative in November.

The second scenario is written to reflect what will happen if the temporary tax initiative is not passed by the voters, and takes an additional $6 billion away from existing state programs.

I would like to share information about the new budget with Berkeley citizens, as there are provisions that will affect our residents.

Background

The governor’s budget will close a $15.7 billion budget gap and rebuild a $1 billion state reserve if certain temporary taxes are adopted in November. Reforms enacted last year — public safety realignment and the elimination of redevelopment agencies — will be joined by deep cuts to welfare programs (a new two-year welfare benefits limit for parents not meeting federal work requirements), merging services to reduce costs for persons eligible for both Medi-Cal and Medicare, and restructured costs for the trial courts. The budget also overhauls California’s correctional system.

The good news is that the budget protects spending for education and public safety programs to the greatest extent possible. However, there are cuts to programs affecting children, hospitals, and nursing homes, our most vulnerable citizens.

The Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act

In November, voters will be asked to pass this temporary measure. The act increases personal income tax on the state’s wealthiest taxpayers for seven years, and increases the state sales tax by one-quarter of a cent for four years. This money will be used for schools, generating an estimated $8.5 billion. This new money will reverse years of cuts. The General Fund will receive $5.6 billion from the act to help balance the budget as required by law. If the act is passed in November, an adopted 9% tuition hike at CSU would be rolled back, and tuition at UC would remain flat for the upcoming academic year.

What if the Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act doesn’t pass?

If the bill does not pass, $6 billion of additional cuts will be made to state programs. Programs facing cuts would be: Proposition 98 (for schools), UC, CSU, Developmental Services, city police department grants, Department of Forestry and Fire Protection grants, flood control, local water safety patrol, Fish and Game (non-warden programs), park lifeguards, Fish and Game (wardens), Department of Justice, and Park Rangers.

These are programs that touch the lives of Berkeley citizens and affect the quality of life in our city and state.

Please let me know if you have questions about specific California’s budget issues, and thank you for taking the time to read this important news.

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Tom Bates is Mayor of Berkeley

Tom Bates is Mayor of Berkeley