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Program Highlight: California Budget Project Analysis

Monday, March 4, 2013

For more than a decade, Northern California Grantmakers has partnered with theCalifornia Budget Project to inform members about the annual budgets that impact underserved communities and grantees they serve. NCG knows many of its members are interested in placing their work into context and by understanding how government is moving on important issues, members can get a sense for how they fit into the larger landscape and how they can help.

Back on Track?

California Budget Project Executive Director Christopher Hoene informed the attendees of NCG’s Annual California Budget Project Analysis that the most important part of his presentation title was the question mark at the end of it.

The overarching theme for his presentation was clear: the state is getting closer to solving its fiscal problem, but it has a long way to go when it comes to supporting public systems that assist our most vulnerable Californians and getting those support systems back to pre-recession levels.

“California is poised to turn the corner…but there are still many Californians hurting.”–Christopher Hoene, California Budget Project Executive Director

  • Since 2008 the state lost 20 billion in revenue during the recession.
  • We’re still coming out of the hole when it comes to jobless numbers.
  • Long-term unemployment remains high.
  • Income inequality has grown during the past two decades.
  • In 2011, 1 in 6 Californians living in poverty. For children it’s 1 in 4.

These statistics underscore a harsh reality:  there are still a lot of people in the state that need public systems to support them. And while the 2013-2014 budget generally maintains last year’s funding levels–which were historically low levels.

“Even though the budget is back on track, [we] need to maintain the state’s fiscal sustainability and [we] need to reinvest in public support systems.”–Christopher Hoene, California Budget Project Executive Director

Specter of Sequestration

Despite increased revenue coming in from Prop. 30 & 39, despite the budget maintaining funding levels from last year, sequestration could undo everything. If sequestration causes the economy to stumble or stall then the revenue the state was counting on won’t come in and that will likely lead to mid-year cuts.

“If the economy doesn’t grow…we’ll hurt.”–Christopher Hoene, California Budget Project Executive Director

Local Perspective

To provide a perspective on what the 2013-14 budget means for our local communities, Chris’ presentation was followed by Kai Mander, Principal Administrative Analyst for Alameda County Administrator’s Office, and Jim Soos, the Assistant Director of Policy and Planning for the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

Takeaways from the local perspective:

  • County budgets are driven by the economy, state budget, federal budget and the County has limited authority to raise revenue;
  • Sequestration would mean across-the-board cuts to transportation, housing, education, criminal justice, health and human services, environmental protection and more;
  • Sequestration will impact Medicare, WIC, HIV programs, substance abuse programs and more;
  • Cuts made over the last few years have not been restored;
  • How California decides to implement the Affordable Healthcare Act will affect counties-if the state puts responsibility on counties it will mean operational issues, compliance with state Department of Healthcare, IT and fiscal infrastructure issues and a varied beneficiary experience;
  • Department of Finance is pushing the county option while the Department of Health is pushing the state option; and
  • Counties feel the state has the infrastructure to implement the Affordable Healthcare Act.

Final Words for Funders

There is a danger in seeing the “balanced budget” and taking off pressure, the hard work must begin again to push for revenue to reinvest in many of the programs whose funding was decimated during the recession.

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