When Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled a revised budget this week proposing to pay down long-term pension debt and commit to building up reserves, San Mateo County officials applauded.
After all, Board of Supervisors President Dave Pine said, the county has been doing that itself.
“I think that the governor is wise to demonstrate fiscal prudence. Those are things we’ve known in San Mateo County and we’ve certainly set an example,” Pine said.
Pine isn’t saying Brown purposely emulated San Mateo County’s financial path but said the echoes are why he and other officials didn’t see any big surprises in the May revise released Tuesday.
“In summary, there’s nothing startling in the revise,” he said.
County officials are still parsing out how details of the governor’s May budget revise like increased spending for Medi-Cal and more trial courts funding impact local departments and coffers but say there are definite bright spots.
The proposed $156.2 billion budget includes $7.9 million for the county and its cities and special districts to fill the shortfall known as the vehicle triple flip in which the state takes local funds to fix its own gap. Of that, $2 million goes to the county, Pine said.
The governor’s extra money for drought impacts including funds for Cal Fire is also encouraging, he said.
The county doesn’t know yet how much it will actually receive but with its open space and fire risks “every little bit will help,” Pine said.
The budget plan proposed by Brown Tuesday will likely by tweaked and massaged before final approval in June but, at first blush, the high-level numbers bandied about are expected to trickle down positively to local needs.
One example is Brown’s plan to spend extra money on the state’s Medi-Cal program to cover the 1.4 million more people who signed up under the Affordable Care Act. Again, Pine said the county brass doesn’t yet have a handle on the definite local impact but it appears to be a good thing.
Pine also lauded the revise for increasing appropriations to the courts.
The state courts, stinging from five years of unprecedented cuts totaling more than $1 billion, are proposed to receive $160 million rather than the $100 million announced in January. The plan looks good on the surface but will only cover employee benefit increases and restoration of a fraction of services, said John Fitton, San Mateo County Superior Court executive officer.
The money earmarked for the courts in the revise doesn’t even come close to making up the losses, Fitton said.
Locally, the Superior Court has lost about 34 percent of its workforce, or 130 positions, and tightened its belt by consolidating courts and cutting clerk counter and phone hours.
The May revise as proposed could mean $600,000 to $700,000 more for the local courts which will allow adding back five to six line staff positions and incrementally restoring services, Fitton said.
The May revise also bodes well for employees raises. In March, the court announced that, under a contract agreement reached with Service Employees International Union workers, they will get a 2 percent pay increase and another 1 percent contingent on the governor’s budget restoring at least $150 million in funding.
In his revise, Brown urged public agencies to find greater efficiencies which Fitton said he appreciates but that the county’s judicial system has managed its resources to be as lean and productive as it can be.
“We understand the realities of the state and work hard to do our fair share,” he said.
Fitton encourages the public to contact their legislators to lobby for increased funding and remind them that justice remains at risk especially for those without financial means.
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