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By Sharon Bernstein
SACRAMENTO, Calif., June 20 California Governor
Jerry Brown was set Friday to sign a $156 billion budget plan
that includes funding for a controversial high-speed rail
project and preschool education for low-income children.
The compromise deal that sets aside money for a so-called
rainy day fund in line with Brown's vision of fiscal restraint,
followed months of political wrangling among Democrats, who
wanted to restore more spending on social programs cut during
the recession than Brown wanted.
Democrats control both houses of the legislature and all
elected offices in California, but divisions have emerged
between Brown, who has steered the state on a moderate fiscal
course, and progressive party members who say the state has
should do more to replenish its tattered social safety net.
Last week, he praised the legislature for "a solid and
sustainable budget" barely bigger than the $156.2 billion he had
proposed in May.
California faces the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July
1, in good financial shape, thanks to new taxes approved by
voters and the resurgent economy. When Brown took over in 2011
from two-term Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, the state faced
an 18-month budget gap of $25 billion.
Under the budget plan approved by lawmakers June 15, Brown's
high-speed rail project, a $68 billion effort opposed by
Republicans, will receive $250 million in funding from the
state's cap-and-trade program. The state collects a fee after
polluters buy and sell their rights to emit carbon into the air.
The budget also encompasses Brown's initial plan for $76
billion in education spending, along with additional programs
negotiated by lawmakers.
Brown, who will sign the budget at a ceremony in San Diego,
may use his line-item veto to reduce some of the spending in the
package approved by the legislature. Details of the final
version will be released by Brown's office later on Friday.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein)