SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California's tax windfall lifted Gov. Jerry Brown's spending plan to a record level Tuesday, but the Democratic governor cautioned that the surplus is needed for higher-than-expected health care costs and an underfunded teachers' pension system.
The governor is projecting $107.8 billion in spending from the general fund, the state's main account for paying day-to-day operations, bringing total state spending to $156.2 billion for the fiscal year starting July 1. That's $1 billion more than the general fund plan Brown proposed in January.
The figure represents a 24 percent increase over the $87 billion general fund budget approved during the 2011-12 fiscal year, the low point of the recession when California cut billions of dollars from state programs and furloughed state workers.
"I can tell you this is good news for California," Brown told reporters Tuesday.
Tax revenue in the current fiscal year is running more than $2 billion ahead of expectations, but the governor's office said expenditures increased at a similar rate.
California can expect about $1.2 billion in additional costs this year for Medi-Cal, the state's health insurance program for the poor, which saw 1.4 million more enrollees than the state projected in January. Brown's office said the additional cost will climb to $2.4 billion in the next fiscal year as even more people enroll due to an expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
The Brown administration had projected 10.5 million people would enroll in Medi-Cal in the 2014-15 fiscal year but now projects 11.5 million will be covered.
Republicans applauded the governor for striking a cautionary tone. But Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, said she's concerned by the increase in health care expenses.
"It's a chunk of money that we were told we weren't going to have to spend," Conway said.
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