Budget Subcommittee Spotlight: March 22, 2018

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Please refer media questions to Jacqui Nguyen at (916) 651-4036.
Below is a summary of some subcommittee activity from the past week:

Subcommittee #1 (Education)

Portantino (D-Los Angeles) Chair, Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), & Jackson (D-Santa Barbara)

Good Times Won’t Last Forever: Republicans Urge Schools to Plan Ahead: Public schools are currently experiencing a surge of $3 billion in additional money that local districts can choose how to spend. However, school financial experts testified that this growth in funding is likely to slow down next year. Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) urged schools to take the long view in deciding how to spend the extra funds and to be sure to set funds aside for rising pension costs. “Storm clouds are gathering,” he said. “Both the Legislature and local school boards should begin to prepare now for slower growth in the future.”  Schools face challenges like the high costs of past overpromises on pensions, and spending the surge in funds foolishly will set up cutbacks when the money returns to normal levels.

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

Wieckowski (D-Fremont) Chair, Nielsen (R-Tehama), McGuire (D-Santa Rosa), Stern (D-Canoga Park)

Money Needed for Healthy Forests, Not the Stumbling High-Speed Rail: The governor’s budget proposes a total of $2.7 billion in Cap and Trade spending in 2018-19, including much needed investments of $160 million for forest improvements and fuel reduction projects to help address the tree mortality crisis.  After the recent wildfires, and with high risk from millions of dead trees around the state, the state needs a real commitment and more funds for forest health.  Unfortunately, the governor instead would waste funds by borrowing against future Cap and Trade revenue through 2050 to help support the bumbling High-Speed Rail project, which recently announced yet more delays and tens of billions in potential cost overruns.  This reckless use of funds will impose greater costs on California families by requiring twice the amount of money to repay these loans. (Cap and Trade costs are ultimately paid by California consumers through higher prices for gas, electricity, food, and other items.) Also, expanding the use of Cap and Trade money for the ever-delayed train project will negatively affect other programs that, unlike High-Speed Rail, actually reduce greenhouse gases.

Subcommittee #3 (Health and Human Services)

Pan (D-Sacramento) Chair, Stone (R-Riverside County), & Monning (D-Santa Cruz)

Governor’s Proposal Puts Critical Health Programs at Risk: The governor’s budget proposes to eliminate the use of the federal “340B” Drug Pricing Program in Medi-Cal. This program provides discounts on outpatient prescription drugs to hospitals and community clinics that serve low-income individuals. The California Department of Health Care Services claims that since it is difficult to provide proper oversight of the 340B program, the state should end these discounts when a prescription drug is dispensed to an individual on Medi-Cal. Senator Jeff Stone (R-Riverside County) led the large coalition of concerned stakeholders in opposition to the governor’s proposal, noting it would “significantly increase the cost of pharmaceuticals for 340B eligible hospitals and clinics, which will undoubtedly lead to a reduction of available services.” He added, “How can the administration ensure that access to care is not negatively impacted as a result of this proposal?” Senator Stone also pointed out that other states effectively monitor the program without wholesale elimination of the discounts.  No vote was taken on the proposal at the hearing.

Subcommittee #4 (State Administration and General Government)

Roth (D-Riverside) Chair, Wilk (R-Antelope Valley), & Glazer (D-Orinda)

Subcommittee #4 did not meet this week.

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

Skinner (D-Berkeley) Chair, Anderson (R-Alpine), & Beall (D-San Jose)

Juvenile Justice Proposals Prompt Significant Questions: The governor’s budget includes two proposals to treat some young adult offenders more like juveniles in prison rehabilitation programs.  The first would increase the maximum age of a youthful offender committed to a state juvenile facility from 23 to 25, potentially allowing some to benefit from rehabilitative programs targeted specifically to young offenders, rather than being transferred to adult facilities or released before they are ready.  The second proposal would allow some young adult offenders (up to the age of 25) to serve their sentences in juvenile facilities, instead of adult prisons, hoping that rehabilitation efforts tailored to younger adult offenders could result in fewer returning to prison.  Senate Republicans agree that efforts to prevent offenders from returning to prison are worthwhile, though challenges with these proposals include treating very young teens alongside adult offenders. The committee members did not reach agreement, and a vote on these proposals was delayed to a future hearing.

There will not be any Budget Subcommittee hearings on Thursday, March 29th.
You can view the agendas for the following week’s Budget Subcommittee hearings here.