Budget Subcommittee Spotlight: March 8, 2018

Saturday, March 10, 2018

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)

Republicans Support Career Technical Education as a Path to Good Jobs: The subcommittee discussed the Governor’s proposal to continue providing $200 million annually for career technical education, which had been scheduled to expire after the current year.  Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) spoke in support of this funding, noting that vocational education is valuable for both students and the business community, and can lead directly to well-paying jobs.  The loss of this funding would weaken schools’ ability to prepare students for the full range of jobs available today.  A vote on this issue was postponed until May, when the Governor will present an updated estimate of the constitutionally guaranteed funding level for K-14 education.

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

Wieckowski (D-Fremont) Chair, Nielsen (R-Tehama), McGuire (D-Santa Rosa), Vacant

Concern Over $900 Million Give-Away for Zero-Emission Vehicles (ZEVs): The subcommittee discussed the Governor’s proposal to spend an additional $900 million over the next eight years to install ZEV charging stations and hydrogen fueling stations.  The funding would come from vehicle and boat registration fees and from a fee charged to electricity customers intended to fund solar installations on new homes.

Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama) expressed concern about the high level of state hand-outs to the electric vehicle industry, including more than $2 billion already earmarked for ZEV charging and fueling infrastructure.  With these massive subsidies, the state would be “picking a winner” among possible technologies and spending tax dollars to favor one industry over other options, such as renewable biodiesel.  In contrast, the Governor and Legislative Democrats justified the recent gas tax increases as a “user pays” model for road repairs, but ZEV infrastructure is not being paid for by ZEV users.  Senate Republicans will continue to advocate for fiscally responsible and fair policies, but the proposal heard today cannot be described as such.  No votes were taken in the subcommittee today.

Subcommittee #3 (Health and Human Services)

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

Republicans Note Concerns About California’s Readiness to Address the “Silver Tsunami”: The Governor’s 2018-19 budget proposal maintains the previous year’s funding level for programs geared towards aging Californians. Senator Jeff Stone (R-Riverside County) applauded the work of the Department of Aging and their regional partners, while also questioning whether the Department is ready for the large, fast-growing group of older people in society, often called the “Silver Tsunami.” He emphasized that elderly Californians deserve dignity and specifically questioned the Department about their long-term plans to accommodate the growing number of elderly in the state. The budget subcommittee held off from taken action on several proposed augmentations.

Subcommittee #4 (State Administration and General Government)

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

Republicans Support Job Placement Program to Reduce Veteran Unemployment: Senator Scott Wilk (R-Antelope Valley) led a bipartisan effort to increase support for veteran job programs during the budget hearing.  The state Work for Warriors initiative launched in 2012 with the goal of reducing the unemployment rate of veterans and active National Guard members by at least 25 percent – a goal that was quickly exceeded.  To date, Work for Warriors has partnered with over 500 employers to serve more than 6,000 veterans, service members, and spouses.  Despite its success, no ongoing funding for the program has ever been provided.  Senator Wilk made a motion to provide $1.7 million to continue the program, and the subcommittee voted (3-0) to approve the funds.  The subcommittee also voted unanimously to increase funds to expand enrollment in military youth programs, which serve at-risk youth throughout the state. To take effect, these budget actions must be approved by both houses of the Legislature and signed by the Governor.

Republicans Support World-Class Care for Veterans: The Governor’s 2018-19 budget proposes $15.7 million General Fund for the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) to conduct a preliminary study to construct a new skilled nursing and memory care facility at the Veterans Home of California in Yountville.  Senator Wilk stated if the state is to continue providing skilled nursing care to veterans, we need to be “world class” in our delivery of that care. The budget subcommittee held off on taking action on the proposal, but asked the department to analyze how this new skilled nursing facility fits in with the state’s assessment of the long-term care needs of California veterans.

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

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

Republicans Offer Creative Alternative to State Prison Construction: The subcommittee discussed (but did not vote on) state prison issues, including the challenges of complying with the federal court-ordered population cap, aging and obsolete prisons, major repair needs resulting from years of neglect, and looming lawsuits stemming from the poor prison conditions. Senator Joel Anderson (R-Alpine) suggested an alternative to address all of these issues without requiring the state to invest significant funds up front: partnering with tribal governments to build prisons on tribal land.  Under this concept, a tribe would finance, build, and maintain one or more prisons, and the state would lease the facilities and operate them according to state standards.  Some of the benefits to the state would be lower up-front costs, modern facilities with enough space for rehabilitation programs, and the possibility of closing dilapidated prisons that are costly to operate.  The tribe would benefit from an ongoing revenue source (the lease), the opportunity to provide ancillary services (like accommodations for visiting families), and employment opportunities for tribal members. The subcommittee may vote on this proposal at a future hearing.

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