California’s legislature reconvenes in Sacramento Monday, just days ahead of when the Governor will release his annual budget proposal.
The plan sets out Brown's top priorities for the year. Legislative leaders will then respond with goals of their own. But both sides have already signaled some of the key issues they hope to tackle this year.
Topping the list: how to expand Medi-Cal by January 2014 as part of federal health care reform. The Brown administration has cautioned against increasing state spending on insurance for the poor too rapidly. Meanwhile, some legislators are already trying to restore Medi-Cal benefits that were cut in recent years.
Assembly Speaker John Perez told members last month the legislature must figure out the best way to implement changes to save money in the long term, while expanding coverage to millions of uninsured Californians right away.
"Ensuring access to quality affordable health care is our primary concern," Perez said. "And it’s of primary importance to the middle class."
Perez also wants to tackle middle-class access to quality, affordable higher education. He wants lawmakers to “recommit” to providing any resident who does well in high school a spot in the University of California, or Cal State University systems.
Governor Brown has been touting a plan to change the financing formula for K-12 schools to give them more control over how to spend state funds.
"We want to give maximum but thoughtful authority to the lowest level—which is the teacher and then working up to the school district." he said at a press conference after Proposition 30 was approved by voters last year.
Brown’s plan — which could provide more money to schools with disadvantaged student — failed to gain traction last year because of the election.
The governor has also talked about protecting the state’s water supply, and keeping California’s high-speed rail project on track. He’ll also consider whether the state’s environmental regulations should be changed. "Do we have the right rules in place?" Brown asked. "Are they retarding investment and job creation?"
Legislative leaders are asking the same questions. Environmental groups will no doubt push back on any change to state regulations.