Governor Brown Proposes 2012-’13 Budget

Gov. Jerry Brown today proposed a state budget for 2012-’13 that includes steep spending cuts, seeks to increase local flexibility and decision making and calls for investments in water supply reliability, high-speed rail and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Released at a hastily called news conference after the proposal was inadvertently posted on the Department of Finance website, the budget aims to close a projected $9.2 billion shortfall in 2012-’13 through $10.3 billion in proposed cuts and the establishment of a $1.1 billion reserve.

The budget and related documents can be found here.

The governor called it an “honest budget” that attempts to address the state’s “wall of debt” while also accelerating economic recovery. He noted, however, that revenue projections remain uncertain and said he will ask voters to approve a ballot measure this fall with temporary tax increases and other provisions.

The budget calls for “bold investments” in the state’s future, he said, including habitat and conveyance improvements in the Delta through the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan. It proposes $25 million and 135 positions within the Department of Water Resources to complete preliminary engineering work for the plan.

“Once completed, the plan will provide the basis for issuing permits for the operation of state and federal water projects,” the budget’s introduction says. “Future funding requests to address the state’s water needs will be necessary.”

Other budget highlights of interest to ACWA members:

·         Changes proposed to regional water boards. The governor proposed to consolidating and eliminating several governmental agencies including realigning the regional water board boundaries to instead create eight regional water boards by merging two of the smaller regional water boards (the Colorado River Basin Water Board) into neighboring areas with boundaries that would continue to follow watersheds. The move is aimed at bringing consistency to the region sizes and reducing the total number of board members from nine to seven.

·         Proposed elimination of the Colorado River Board. The proposed budget transfers the responsibilities of the Colorado River Board to the Natural Resources Agency, noting that all statewide water supply issues could thus be addressed in a “comprehensive and coordinated manner.”

·         Proposed elimination of councils / committees within the Department of Fish and Game. Entities including the Salton Sea Restoration Council and the California Advisory Committee on Salmon and Steelhead Trout are proposed for elimination.

·         Proposed elimination of the Watershed Coordinator Initiative Program. The State Board would maintain the Watershed Management Initiative Plans within each region that were finished in 2007. Plan concepts have been “incorporated into various Water Board programs”