California Politics: What Wasn’t in the State Budget

So you heard. California has more money than ever.

The budget plan signed by the government. Gavin Newsom at the end of June a history of 307.9 billion dollars and anticipates a record surplus.

This includes gas refunds for taxpayers as pump prices soar, a comprehensive reproductive health plan as abortion access is threatened nationwide and new benefits for California’s most vulnerable, including extended tax credits and utility payment assistance.

But today we talk about what is not in the budget.

My name is Mackenzie Mays and I cover politics and state government with a focus on equity, poverty and California’s growing wealth gap.

While many celebrate the state’s explosive revenues — celebrations tempered by an unknown economic future — some Sacramento lobbyists, advocates and lawmakers mourn the darlings who have been killed.

Kristina Bas Hamiltonwho runs a lobbying firm focused on advocacy and labor organizations, tried to secure funding in the budget for a new guaranteed income program for homeless high school students — legislation led by the state Sen. . Dave Cortese (D-San Jose.)

Proponents of the bill have asked for $50 million, enough to get monthly payments of $650 into the pockets of eligible students for five months under the proposed pilot project. But the idea did not survive the budget negotiations.

With more money, there may be more demands and tougher negotiations between the governor and lawmakers over California’s priorities. But it’s better than the alternative, said Bas Hamilton.

“I had the terrible experience of doing a lot of budget work during the recession, and I’ll tell you, taking a dollar off the Jerry Brown administration during the recession years was like pulling blood out of a stone,” she said. “Now that we are in the middle of economic times, it makes things easier, but it is generally still very difficult.”

Budget season is over, although there’s still a chance for a Hail Mary for a lucky few. The Legislature could make room in the budget by approving new bills when it reconvenes in August — and hope for the governor’s signature.

Lobbyists like Bas Hamilton are already preparing the next budget, when the process starts again in January.

Here are some of the initiatives that were not retained during this exercise:

Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund

For the second year in a row, an effort to create a state fund focused on health equity and racial justice has failed.

While the Senate and Assembly have proposed $75 million in ongoing annual funding for a new Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund, no such funding is included in the final version of the budget signed by the Governor. .

The funding would have been used to help local organizations and clinics address a host of health disparities and increase access to care while also focusing on contributing factors such as employment, transportation and criminal justice.

As reported by my colleague Marissa Evans, supporters of the program criticized Newsom for failing to defend the fund. Without this,
disproportionate health problems will continue to exist for communities of color and leave them competing for access to much-needed help, advocates said.

HD Palmer, Newsom’s Department of Finance spokesman, pointed to $300 million in the budget to support the Department of Public Health and local health jurisdictions as a means by which the state is tackling the problem. This budget plan “provides funding that will allow continued progress” on the issue of equity, he said, with particular emphasis on the social determinants of health such as race and poverty.

Helping counties administer benefits

As the budget increases funding and scope for some government assistance programs, counties that administer those benefits have sounded the alarm about their inability to meet demand.

County offices responsible for distributing monthly food allowances to low-income Californians say they are understaffed and overwhelmed, leading to delays in services and longer wait times for people in the need.

This year, a Marin County program manager told me she was maintaining a 16% to 20% staff vacancy rate there as requests for CalFresh services increased 70% between 2017 and 2021.

County Welfare Directors Association. had requested $60 million for CalFresh administration costs, but the budget included $35 million.

CWDA Executive Director Cathy Senderling-McDonald said that was not enough for counties to provide timely services to millions of Californians every day.

“Counties continue to face challenges recruiting and retaining staff to provide these supports and the budget unfortunately does not fully fund the administrative work required of counties across all of our programs and services,” she said. .

The Association of Directors of Child Support. of California also expressed disappointment with funding in the budget for local agencies tasked with distributing that money to families.

“Unfortunately, this budget does not do enough to support California’s children, especially children of color, and families served by” local child support agencies, the group said in a statement.

Paid family leave and disability benefits

According to a report by the California Budget & Policy Center, California’s paid family leave and state disability rates are lower than in other states, and many workers who need the leave the most don’t. do not use because the payments are not enough.

Most California workers are entitled to up to eight weeks of paid time off to care for a sick family member or bond with a new child.

For most workers on “very low” wages, payments amount to 70% of their earnings, and for other workers, 60%, according to the report.

Without any state intervention in the near future, these rates should drop and return to a rate of 55% of workers’ incomes. (In 2018, state officials temporarily increased payments for the programs, and now the time is up.)

While the governor and legislature had offered options to increase benefits or extend current rates, there was no mention of the issue in the budget finalized last month. Negotiations could continue, but defenders are on edge.

“It has become only a nominal benefit – workers have to choose between paying the bills and taking care of themselves or their families,” said Sarah Jimenez, spokesperson for the California Budget & Policy Center.

Food benefits for all undocumented migrants

With this budget, California became the first state to provide food benefits to immigrants residing illegally in the country.

The budget includes $35.2 million to expand the state’s food assistance program to residents over 55 “regardless of immigration status,” and funding for the new program is expected to increase to 113, $4 million per year in 2025-2026.

The policy, the first of its kind, fills gaps in the safety net, as immigrants without legal status are not eligible for federal benefits such as food stamps.

The Newsom administration says the policy targets a vulnerable population that is often overlooked. But the budget deal rejects calls from anti-poverty advocates to cover all ages.

The new policy is estimated to benefit an additional 75,000 Californians each year, according to a report from the Office of the Legislative Analyst. The need for maintenance benefits among immigrants without legal status is believed to be much greater.

According to an April report by Nourish California, a food access and human rights organization, nearly half of Californians without legal immigration status struggle with food insecurity, and the majority of them are adults between the ages of 27 and 49.

“While this is a significant investment, many immigrants under the age of 55 will remain excluded from CalFresh, our most powerful hunger relief program,” the Food4All Coalition said in a statement. “We will continue to work with the immigrant community and state leaders until all Californians have access to food assistance. No exceptions. No exclusions.

California political flash

– Newsom took his frustrations with Red State Republicans – and his own party – on the road, as he accepted an education award in Washington, D.C.

– Another gun control measure became state law this week, establishing a “gun industry standard of conduct,” part of a series of bills aimed at curbing the outbreak of armed violence.

— The governor forbade a trip to visit his in-laws in Montana.

– A landmark tax on millionaires passed by California voters decades ago has failed to deliver on its promise to help mental health.

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