This budget takes some very positive steps for the state of California. Even though we did the fiscally responsible thing and went with the Governor’s lower revenue estimates and left a significant reserve, we were able to move the state forward. We are restoring some cuts from previous years including basic dental care for the poor and replacing some childcare funding for working families. We are also going to keep university tuition hikes in check and provide additional financial aid with the Speaker’s middle class scholarship program.
Overall I’m pleased with how well the two houses worked together to craft what should be an on time budget, my first as an Assemblymember. I think some of the voter enacted reforms accomplished what they were designed to do. I am disappointed that the Legislature failed to address an ongoing inequity which resulted from the redevelopment dissolution. Once again some cities and counties (including San Mateo) will have their pockets picked as a result of transfers of local dollars to pay for state obligations. I sought to address this unfairness in this year’s budget and will keep pursuing this issue until it is resolved.
Some of the issues that I worked on in Budget subcommittee #4 were able to get into the final deal. Specifically, we increased funding to expedite filing fees at the Secretary of State and extra money to assist the federal government in processing disability claims for California veterans as well as money for County Veteran Service Officers to outreach to veterans to provide eligible services.
Here are some of the highlights of the Budget Deal that we will be voting on by the end of the week:
Continuing Fiscal Responsibility:
Balanced Budget. The budget is balanced, with a reserve of $1.1 billion and is structurally balanced throughout the entire forecast period.
Pays Down Debt. The budget pays down $4.2 billion in budget debt, including over $2.1 billion in deferrals to schools.
Cautious Revenue Estimate. The budget is based on the Department of Finance General Fund revenue projections, rather than the Legislative Analyst’s modestly more optimistic forecast.
Sets Stage For Rainy Day Fund. With maintaining budget stability, the stage is set for crafting a workable Rainy Day Fund for the November 2014 ballot that captures spiking capital gain revenues to protect against economic downturns.
Strengthening the Middle Class:
Additional Funding for Schools. The budget provides billions in new investments for schools, including a funding formula to target resources to low income students and English learners.
The final agreement on the funding formula meets all four conditions set by the Blueprint for a
Responsible Budget, including:
Increases funding for early care & preschool programs (over $100 million) and a CalWORKs Child Poverty Adjustment grant increase as a first step in ensuring low income children have a real chance at educational success in the classroom.
Ensures all schools benefit from the increased revenues and economic recovery by altering the Governor’s formula proposal to provide higher base grants and to ensure every school district has their funding restored to at least their pre-recession levels.
Benefits all low income and English learner students throughout the state, not just those in high concentration areas by targeting funds to all qualified students and ensuring districts target the funds toward these students with accountability measures.
Provides smart use of one-time Prop 98 funds by repaying over $2 billion in Prop 98 deferrals and by providing $1.25 billion for Common Core State Standards transition costs.
Increased Funding and Access to Higher Education.
The budget provides significant new investments for Higher Education and makes college more affordable for the middle class, with the following:
Increases funding for UC and CSU of $250 million, this increase will grow to over $1 billion by 2016-17.
Begins the Middle Class Scholarship for the 2014-15 school year to slash student fees by up to 40% for families making under $100,000 and up to 10% for families earning $150,000. Therefore, once fully implemented, the Scholarship will phase down to 10% for families earning between $100,000 and $150,000 (i.e. family income of $100,000 – 40% scholarship; income of $125,000 – 25% scholarship; family earning $150,000 – 10% scholarship.)
Improved Programs for Families Striving for the Middle Class.
The budget makes meaningful progress in improving programs that help families striving for the middle class, including:
Increases investments in welfare-to-work programs including family stabilization and subsidized employment.
Doubles the value of a vehicle a CalWORKs recipient can own in order to receive benefits, this is a key change necessary to ensure families retain their car – often the key to being able to get back to work.
Reestablishes a modified Adult Dental program to provide dental services that are necessary for the health and social wellbeing of individuals needing to have bigger participation in the economy.
Expands Medi-Cal to 138% of federal poverty to provide access to healthcare for the working poor. In addition to the expansion, the budget provides a greater level of services than originally proposed by the Governor and ensures immigrant parents can remain in the same program as their children.
Delivering Effective, Efficient Services for Californians:
Cuts Business Filings Processing to Five Days. The budget follows through on the Assembly’s action in the Spring to permanently cut the processing time for the Secretary of State to process business filings from over 60 days to no more than five days.
Updates Local Coastal Plans. The budget provides $4 million for Local Coastal Plans to be updated to streamline and improve coastal zone changes in accordance with the Coastal Act.
Improves Services for Veterans. The budget provides $3 million for state staff to assist the federal government in processing disability claims of California veterans, and $3 million for
County Veteran Service Officers to outreach to veterans to provide eligible services.
Increased Funding for Courts. The budget provides a modest increase of $63 million for Courts, as a first step in establishing an adequate funding level. The increased funds come with accountability measures ensuring funds are spent protecting services and to ensure public access to key judicial branch administrative decisions.