Politics & Government

Here are some victories Merced County can count from state budget, state leaders say

The $215 billion budget deal reached this week in California comes with a number of highlights for Merced County, including investments in education, health care and a new fire station on the Westside.

Lawmakers must work out some of the kinks for the final details of some aspects of the budget, but the bill passed Thursday will provide the major framework for state spending in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Medical school

The budget authorizes the University of California to issue bonds to fund the construction of a San Joaquin Valley medical school, which leaders have said could likely be added onto UC Merced.

The university already has a partnership with UC San Francisco and the UCSF Fresno Community Regional Medical Center. Building a medical school in the Valley has been touted as a way to cut into the doctor shortage in the region.

“Importantly, it puts the state’s commitment to funding the medical school into law,” Assembly member Adam Gray, D-Fresno, said on Thursday. “More detail will follow as we advance additional trailer bills in the coming weeks.”

Merced College

Gov. Gavin Newsom visited the Merced College during his campaign last year. Advocates took the opportunity to show him the aging Agriculture and Industrial Technology facilities, which were built in 1968 and 1976. The college has plans to build a new $21 million facility.

School leaders have said the college is preparing to build that facility with bond measures from the last decade. The budget fulfills the matching funds to move forward with construction.

A rendering of the planned new Agriculture and Industrial Technology facilities at Merced College. Merced College

Los Banos fire station

An earmark of $5 million in the budget is aimed at the construction of a multipurpose fire station, emergency operations center and regional training facility in Los Banos. Gray said it should improve response times in the area and could be more support for statewide disasters.

“With an increasingly intense fire season and significant population growth in Los Banos and surrounding communities, the need for additional fire facilities is clear,” Gray said.

Fair funding

Local fairs throughout the state, like the Merced County Fair and Merced County Spring Fair, are set to share about $20 million to upgrade infrastructure and other projects. The money comes from sales tax revenue generated at fairs.

In response to the Great Recession and a budget shortfall in 2011, then-Gov. Jerry Brown ended a $32 million subsidy to 29 state fairs.

Drinking water

The budget also appropriates $130 million to clean up drinking water in some parts of the state.

An estimated 360,000 Californians live with unsafe drinking water, according to a McClatchy analysis last year. About 80,000 people in Merced and Stanislaus counties would be risking their health to drink from the tap.

The Sacramento Bee contributed to this report.

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Reporter Thaddeus Miller has covered cities in the central San Joaquin Valley since 2010, writing about everything from breaking news to government and police accountability. A native of Fresno, he joined The Fresno Bee in 2019 after time in Merced and Los Banos.