Budget subcommittees met several times this past week to begin voting on the Governor’s May Revision budget proposal. Below is a summary of some key subcommittee activity this week:
Subcommittee #1 (Education)
Block (D-San Diego) Chair, Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), & Allen (D-Santa Monica)
Taking Education in the Wrong Direction. The majority party took several steps in the wrong direction on education policy by rejecting needed reforms and adding funds for lower priorities. Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) opposed the following subcommittee actions:
- Added $5 million to the University of California to fund biased gun violence research, as proposed by Senate Bill 1006 (Wolk), which the majority party simultaneously rushed through the Senate this week.
- Rejected the Governor’s proposal to provide a $100 million revolving fund to make needed school facility repair loans.
- Approved the Governor’s proposal to suspend the Academic Performance Index calculation for 2015-16.
Subcommittee #2 (Resources, Energy, Agriculture & Transportation)
Wolk (D-Davis) Chair, Nielsen (R-Gerber), & Pavley (D- Agoura Hills)
Majority Party Approves Higher Fees Without Reforms. The majority party continues to ask Californians to pay more in fees for everything from water rights to off-road vehicles instead of asking state departments to reform programs or make better use of the funds they already have. Specifically, the majority party approved the following in spite of Republican opposition:
- A rip-off of $31 million from the Off Highway Vehicle program to pay for the Department of Parks and Recreation’s financial mistakes.
- A $10 increase in vehicle registration fees that the Governor argues is needed to support the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Highway Patrol, even though the state dubiously redirects over $70 million each year from these departments for unrelated uses. Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) voted to reject this questionable use of money, but the majority party opposed his call for prudence.
- A water rights fee hike, supposedly to clear a backlog of applications, even though past promises to fix the backlog with higher fees have gone unfulfilled.
Senate Republicans believe government needs to be more accountable to voters by reforming ineffective or inefficient programs rather than continuing to reach deeper into voters’ pockets for ever-more money.
Subcommittee #3 (Health & Human Services)
Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) Chair, Monning (D-Carmel), & Stone (R-Riverside)
Some Additional Funds, but Not for Core Benefits. The subcommittee added funds to the Governor’s budget for a variety of health and human services programs. Senator Jeff Stone (R-Riverside) supported some of the items that focus on fixing widespread problems, such as $33 million for medical education programs to improve access to doctors in parts of the state where the availability of health care is a challenge. However, Democrats did not take any action to restore key Medi-Cal benefits like eyeglasses for adults and podiatry, nor did the Governor or legislative Democrats take any steps to make developmental services providers whole for all the costs of the state’s minimum wage mandate. Senate Republicans believe it is unfair for the state to impose costs on businesses and then refuse to pay its own bills to those who care for our disabled residents.
(Housing, Veterans Affairs, & General Government)
Roth (D-Riverside) Chair, Nguyen (R-Garden Grove), & Pan (D-Sacramento)
Needed Infrastructure Funds Approved. The Subcommittee approved the Governor’s proposal for $500 million to address some of the state’s infrastructure needs, including $289 million for community colleges. Senate Republicans support a high-quality system of community colleges that help Californians equip themselves for the workplace. Also, the $500 million includes $100 million for needed repairs to California’s levee system, which improves protection against floods.
(Revenue, Labor, PERS, STRS, Public Safety, & Judiciary)
Hancock (D-Berkeley) Chair, Anderson (R-San Diego), Beall (D-San Jose)
Democrats Ignore Need for Local Jails. Democrats on the subcommittee voted to reject the Governor’s proposal to provide $250 million for local jail construction. These funds would have assisted mostly rural counties in adding necessary jail capacity, and the legislative Democrats’ rejection of these funds ignores the public safety needs of these communities. Senator Joel Anderson (R-Alpine) voted against this rejection.
Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied. The subcommittee discussed but did not take any votes on the issue of delays and backlogs in law enforcement’s rape kit testing. These backlogs can result in a failure to see justice done, and they are caused in part by a lack of priority in local and state budgets. Senator Anderson explored possible solutions in the discussion with the Department of Justice. Senator Bob Huff (R-San Dimas) has also called for the state to provide $10 million to assist in clearing these backlogs. Senate Republicans hope that Democrats will join in seeking to direct a small portion of the state’s current budget surplus for this essential step in obtaining justice for rape victims.