Budget Subcommittee Spotlight: March 13, 2020

Friday, March 13, 2020

Subcommittee #1 (Education)

Affordability at the University of California (UC).  This week’s hearing focused on UC finances and program performance. The committee discussed the Governor’s budget proposals addressing regional physician shortages, particularly within the Inland Empire and San Joaquin Valley, as well as the UC’s intent to increase student tuition. Senator Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga) voiced his continued support of the UC Riverside School of Medicine and formally recognized the impacts the school has made within the Inland Empire medical community.  Senate Republicans remain committed to maintaining access and affordability to higher education for students in California.  It remains unclear why the UC is considering tuition increases while the state is experiencing a multi-billion dollar surplus. Students and taxpayers also have a right to know what UC is doing to address high operating costs, such as excessive administrator staffing and salaries, in order to deliver an affordable university education for Californians.

Subcommittee #2 (Resources, Environmental Protection, Energy, and Transportation)

Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Continues to Struggle with Core Mission.  This week the subcommittee discussed DMV’s ongoing struggle to provide federally compliant Real IDs while keeping their operating fund in the black and continuing to automatically register voters.  To date, DMV has received an additional $380 million to handle the workload of converting Californians to Real IDs prior to the federal deadline of October 1, 2020.  The budget proposes another $200 million for next year.  Absent corrective measures, this increased spending means DMV will be nearly $300 million in the red come 2024.  Even with the boost in funding, only 7.2 million Real IDs have been issued, with more than 18 million remaining to complete by October this year.  Compounding DMVs challenges to handle its basic functions, Sacramento Democrats forced DMV to implement an automatic voter registration program called Motor Voter, which resulted in more than 100,000 errors as DMV redirected core licensing staff to process voter registrations.  The Governor now proposes to give DMV another $6.4 million for this questionable program and return licensing staff to their previous work. Senator Brian Dahle (Bieber) believes the integrity of our voting system must be protected and the voter registration process should not be entrusted to an agency with an unrelated core mission.

Subcommittee #3 (Health and Human Services)

Counties, Hospitals, and Health Clinics Ask State for COVID-19 Help. The subcommittee heard from local public health officers as well as community clinics and hospitals on what the state could do to help their local COVID-19 efforts. Specifically, they asked the state to:

  • Allow counties to increase the capacity for COVID-19 tests.
  • Use a statewide call center to handle the growing number of calls made to county public health offices.
  • Grant counties more resources for contact tracing and self-quarantine.
  • Expedite telehealth-billing implementation for health clinics.
  • Reconsider hospital-staffing procedures and rules during the crisis.
  • Tap into the strategic national stockpile of medical supplies to meet the growing demand for face-shields, masks, and other equipment worn by medical personnel.

The state Department of Public Health responded positively on all these requests, stating that increased resources, equipment, and a statewide call center are on the way to counties, hospitals, and health clinics. The department also announced that $41.9 million in federal funds was just received by California to fight COVID-19. As our nation, state, and local communities deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, Senate Republicans are making sure that the state is providing the crucial medical resources needed in our communities.

Subcommittee #4 (State Administration and General Government)

State IT System Delays and Cost Overruns Push into 15th Year. The subcommittee discussed the state’s most ambitious information technology (IT) project, the Financial Information System for California (FI$Cal) project, which integrates the state’s accounting, budgeting, and procurement processes. Since the 2005 beginning of the project, the cost, schedule, and scope of the project has changed significantly. The current update delays the project deadline yet another year, to July 2020, and removes some functions, meaning FI$Cal will not deliver what the Legislature expected. Project costs would increase by another $150 million, bringing the total to $1.1 billion. Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama) expressed concern with the changes, calling for “clear, proscriptive expectations and accountability measures in order to ensure that we are being responsible with taxpayers’ dollars.” Given the state’s consistent failure to implement major IT projects on time and within budget, fundamental changes are needed to ensure taxpayer money is not wasted.

Subcommittee #5 (Corrections, Public Safety, and the Judiciary)

did not meet this week