Officially the California State Budget needed to be passed by the Legislature no later than midnight, June 15th, to meet the constitutional deadline. While this technically happened, the initial bill pushed through, a record $262.6 billion spending plan, was a budget framework, a placeholder bill that lacked substance or details.
Since then, the budget has been put together in pieces through various “budget junior” and trailer bills. In fact, right before the Legislature recessed for the summer last week, we reviewed “Budget 4.0,” the fourth budget version in the past five weeks.
Unfortunately, most of these pieces have been hastily put together with one-sided, last-minute negotiations and little public input. Furthermore, many important and complex issues have yet to be resolved or even discussed, including wildfire prevention funding, water storage, economic recovery, and infrastructure upgrades.
So far, some funding has been set aside for certain areas of the budget, but there has been little discussion on exactly where, how, and when the money will be spent.
This year’s budget is irregular to say the least, so I wanted to be sure to keep you updated. For better or worse, here are some of the things that have passed so far and have either been signed or are awaiting governor approval:
- $8.1 billion expansion of the Golden State Stimulus Program
- Universal transitional kindergarten to include 4-year olds
- Free breakfast and lunch for all public school students
- Three -month extension of the state's eviction moratorium
- $12 billion to homeless programs
- Framework for building a statewide broadband network
- An increase in fees collected on each barrel of oil from 6.5 cents to 8.5 cents
- Expansion of Medi-Cal health insurance to include undocumented residents age 50 and older
- Increased access to California Food Assistance Program benefits and In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) benefits to individuals regardless of immigration status.
My colleagues and I also introduced budget amendments to include the following. Unfortunately, they were all rejected.
- Backfill payment of $7.8 billion that was taken out of the State’s Rainy Day Fund
- $15 billion to pay down the Unemployment Insurance debt
- $200 million per year for forest health and wildfire prevention projects
- $1 billion for increased water storage
- A one-year “Gas Tax Holiday” to suspend taxes on motor vehicle fuel
As the Legislature moves forward with this budget, it is important not to add billions to new and ongoing programs that are not sustainable in the long-term. Overfunding and overpromising will inevitably lead to either tax increases, budget cuts, or both. Responsibility and accountability of tax-payer dollars is a must.
Budget negotiations are expected to resume this summer and continue through the rest of the year.