Budget Subcommittee Spotlight: March 5, 2020

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Subcommittee #1 (Education)

Roth (D-Riverside) Chair, Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga), & Leyva (D-Chino)

K-12 Education Overview Hearing Highlights Numerous Challenges.  The subcommittee reviewed the Governor’s major budget proposals for K-12 education. Emphasized throughout the discussion were several key fiscal issues facing school districts, notably pension debt and funding for special education. The Governor’s Budget invests over $1 billion in education dollars toward new or expanding programs, but both the committee and several stakeholders raised questions about how these dollars would create value or produce actual results within the current K-12 education system.  Senate Republicans are concerned about using short-term dollars on programs that lack focus, clear goals, and specific outcomes. A more prudent approach would be to redirect some of the short-term spending toward better aligned special education programs or reducing districts’ major pension obligations.  The subcommittee will vote on these issues at a future hearing.

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

Wieckowski (D-Fremont) Chair, Dahle (R-Bieber), McGuire (D-Santa Rosa), Monning (D-Santa Cruz), & Stern (D-Canoga Park)

Speeding Up Assistance to Camp Fire Victims. The subcommittee met to vote on the Governor’s proposal to help displaced Camp Fire victims find housing. The proposal would provide the Department of Fish and Wildlife with additional staff to support the increasing workload in permitting to accelerate the approval of housing projects. Senator Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) voted along with other senators to approve the proposal, which now will move forward in the budget process. This will ensure that over 50,000 displaced victims of the Camp Fire will have more options for housing in the near future. Senate Republicans continue to support assistance to the victims of the wildfires that have ravaged the state in recent years.

Subcommittee #3 (Health and Human Services)

Pan (D-Sacramento) Chair, Borgeas (R-Fresno), & Hurtado (D-Sanger)

Seniors in Rural Areas May Face Greater Challenges. The subcommittee met to discuss issues for seniors such as in-home supportive services, adult protective services, and the state’s Master Plan for Aging. Long-term supportive services for seniors vary widely county by county, and seniors in rural counties can face greater challenges due to overlapping bureaucracies and limited access to services. One program that shows promise is the Home Safe Program, a pilot program that offers housing support and services for vulnerable seniors involved with the Adult Protective Services system. The locally-driven, targeted nature of the program has led to some promising results in both urban and rural counties. Senate Republicans will work to ensure that the needs of rural communities are not overlooked as the budget process considers programs for senior Californians.

Subcommittee #4 (State Administration and General Government)

Caballero (D-Salinas) Chair, Nielsen (R-Tehama), & Durazo (D-Los Angeles)

Housing Permits Fall as Governor’s Budget Fails to Include Needed Reforms.  The subcommittee discussed numerous requests for resources within the Department of Housing and Community Development, but the Governor’s budget fails to include broader policy reforms that deal with the underlying cause of California’s expensive housing and focuses instead on expanding state bureaucracy. These causes include frequent abuse of environmental reviews, extensive and cost-prohibitive zoning restrictions, and a host of excessive fees, all of which have raised the costs of building and slowed down the production of housing units. Over the past two years, the state has provided more than $9 billion towards numerous housing programs, yet in 2019, housing permits decreased for the first time in ten years, with local jurisdictions permitting only 43 percent of the homes required to meet their housing needs. The state has actually increased restrictions and mandates on housing construction in recent years. The high cost of housing across the state helps creates the nation’s highest poverty level, and improvements will not happen unless bold reforms are enacted to reduce the actual cost to build.

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

Skinner (D-Berkeley) Chair, Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), & Beall (D-San Jose)

Youth Offender Proposal Shows Inconsistency in Governor’s Juvenile Justice Policy. The subcommittee delayed voting on a proposal from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to spend $10 million a year clustering young prison inmates ages 22 - 25 in campus-like settings at several state prisons.  The stated intent is to create an environment that fosters learning, rehabilitation, and pro-social behaviors. CDCR has been experimenting with educating and rehabilitating concentrated clusters of youthful offenders for the past 15 years within its Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). Unfortunately, CDCR is apparently so ineffective in this mission that the Governor is in the process of moving DJJ from CDCR to the Health and Human Services Agency. The new proposal therefore begs an obvious question: if CDCR is so bad at rehabilitating youthful offenders at DJJ, why would the state focus more taxpayer dollars on creating mini-DJJs within its prison system?

You can view the agendas for the following week’s budget subcommittee hearings here.