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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — With California's proposed general fund budget peaking above $115 billion, the state will have billions more to send to public schools while boosting spending on universities, prisons and health care. Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday also proposed more money to help the state cope with the ongoing drought.
Here are some highlights of the spending plan that still needs legislative approval.
— At $50 billion, K-12 public schools are the biggest beneficiaries of the state's general fund and will reap the lion's share of a newly projected surplus. School districts will get $5.5 billion of a $6.7 billion spike in tax collections, amounting to about $3,000 more per student compared to four years ago, after schools were cut during the recession.
A formula adopted last year sends more of that money to schools with the most low-income and English-learning students.
For the first time since the recession, California will pay schools what they're owed on time, allowing them to avoid expensive borrowing.
— Community colleges, the University of California and California State University would get nearly $17 billion.
UC leaders had threatened to raise tuition unless the system received another $100 million a year. The governor didn't grant that extra money but is offering a one-time $436 million injection to UC's cash-strapped pension fund over three years.
In exchange, many in-state students will have their tuition frozen for two years. Out-of-state students and students pursuing professional degrees still face increased costs.
— The budget sends nearly $32 billion to health care programs. That includes $18 billion for the $91 billion joint federal-state Medi-Cal program, which is projected to cover 12.4 million people — nearly one in three Californians — for doctor visits, hospital care, pregnancy-related services, and some nursing home care.
Brown also wants to add $62 million to begin enrolling low-income immigrants in California's version of Medicaid on the assumption that President Barack Obama will prevail in a court battle over his health care overhaul.
Doctors and hospitals seeking higher payments involving Medi-Cal patients were turned down by the governor, who says it's not clear that higher rates would make more doctors available.
— Brown is proposing $10 billion for prisons and rehabilitation programs. He wants to bring home 4,000 of the roughly 8,100 inmates housed in private prisons in Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma. The move would save the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation $73 million next year. The state is budgeting $112 million this year and next to treat inmates using expensive new Hepatitis C medication.
The budget does not include shuttering the decaying California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, despite pleas from inmate rights groups and a state senator. The administration says it will consider what to do with the 2,500-bed facility next year.
— Brown has heeded calls to speed spending on water in the fourth year of a crippling drought. He's proposing to spend nearly a quarter of the $7.5 billion contained in a voter-approved water bond over the next three years. It would pay local water districts to clean up contaminated groundwater basins and to develop technology to reuse water that's flushed down toilets and storm drains. The budget doesn't include funding to store water, which by law does not require legislative approval.
Another $175 million goes to city and farm conservation programs such as swapping thirsty lawns for drought-tolerant shrubs in poor communities and paying farmers to install slow-trickling valves instead of sprinklers.
Legislation accompanying the budget also fulfils Brown's promise to increase local water agencies power to enforce water restrictions.
Associated Press writers Judy Lin and Don Thompson in Sacramento and Lisa Leff in San Francisco contributed to this report.
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