When State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson last served in the statehouse, budgets invariably missed their deadlines as Republicans and Democrats found themselves locked in perpetual partisan paralysis. That was 2004. This year, Democrats enjoy a veto-proof majority, and Governor Jerry Brown’s budget passed on time with a surplus — unheard of in 10 years — of $500 million. The last governor the Democratic Jackson worked with was Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom she described as “clueless” in terms of what he wanted to accomplish and how he intended to accomplish it. By contrast, Jackson praised Brown as a politically seasoned visionary with a keen grasp of what can be achieved.
While Jackson disagreed with Brown’s plan to redistribute school funding to the advantage of underserved districts — she argued funding for all districts should be increased — she said Brown was “coming from a very solid, positive place.” Ultimately, she noted, Brown struck a compromise to increase per-pupil funding by $537 a year, bringing it to 2007 spending levels. After that, she added, funding increases will target poorer schools.
Jackson, a liberal Democrat, noted the budget restores funding to adult dental services, which had been totally eliminated for the past five years. That lack of service gave rise, she said, “to the kind of stuff that goes on in Rwanda.” Likewise, she voiced satisfaction that the governor’s budget adds $275 million in onetime funding to mental-health services. Jackson, however, expressed concern that Brown was “too conservative” in his estimates of future revenues, noting that the state’s Legislative Analyst thought he underestimated future growth to the tune of $2 billion.