Political Playback: California Capitol News You Might Have Missed

Political Playback: California Capitol News You Might Have Missed

PHOTO Asm. Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley) attended a rally at the State Capitol on May 15 to express his opposition to cuts in the state budget. Jackson said some of the Governor’s proposed cuts affect low-income communities and social programs. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey. 
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 BO TEFU AND ANTONIO RAY HARVEY | CALIFORNIA BLACK MEDIA

Asm. Cory Jackson: Gov’s Budget Cuts Must Be “Rooted in Justice”

At a rally held by the Service Employees International Union California (SEIU) at the State Capitol on May 15, Assemblymember Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley) expressed his concerns about budget cuts proposed by Gov. Newsom.

The rally was a response to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revised budget, which he presented last week. Newsom proposes spending delays and making cuts to existing programs to address the state’s budget shortfall, which the Governor’s office estimates at $27.6 billion.

“To make sure that we are clear, and I am clear: these cuts to our social safety net are simply not acceptable. We are not going to repeat the mistakes of the Great Recession,” Jackson said. “We are not going to balance the budget on the backs of our marginalized, poorest residents, neighbors, and brothers and sisters.”

California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and Sen. Susan Rubio (D-West Covina) also spoke at the rally.

Rubio told the audience that she aims to protect domestic violence programs from being on the chopping block.

SEIU members and youth advocates at the rally voiced their opinions about proposed cuts to CalWorks, childcare programs, CalFresh, child welfare programs, and in-home support services.

In addition, proposed cuts are expected to impact public health, behavioral health, homelessness and affordable housing programs, and delayed expansion of the California Food Assistance Program (CFAP).

Newsom’s revised proposal to balance the state budget cuts one-time spending by $19.1 billion and ongoing spending by $13.7 billion for fiscal years 2024-2025 and 2025-26.

Jackson emphasized, “This budget process and this budget must be rooted in justice, which means we are not going to just look at the numbers and say that ‘this will be cut and that will be cut.’ We will make sure that we consider the harm that is being done with each cut.”

Legislative Analyst Office: California’s “Budget Problem” Is Bigger Than Governor’s Estimate

In a report released May 17, California’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) released a report stating that the state’s budget problem is $55 billion. That figure is nearly double the estimate of $27.6 billion that the Governor announced in his May revision of the state budget last week.

“Based on the administration’s revenue estimates and proposals, we estimate the Governor addressed a larger deficit than this -- $55 billion,” read a statement from the LAO.

According to the LAO, although it’s calculation of the deficit is significantly higher, “these scoring differences do not reflect substantive differences in our views of the state’s fiscal position.”

“The difference is attributable to what our offices consider to be current law, particularly for school and community college spending,” the LAO statement continued.

A number of California officials, including Treasurer Fiona Ma and Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber, as well as several advocate groups, agree that the state remains on strong economic footing.

This is a serious plan to address a difficult situation and I commend Governor Newsom for tackling it head-on, said Ma. “His budget provides a practical path forward that doesn’t sacrifice California’s commitment to critical policy agendas like climate change and housing. Unlike deficits of the past, the state’s underlying fundamentals are solid. The economy is strong, the agreed-upon early actions were real and significant, and the state has ample reserves and available cash to draw on if needed.”

According to the LAO, the structure of the Governor’s spending plan will strengthen the state’s economy in several ways.

“First, by proposing the state use less in reserves, the Governor preserves an important tool to address budget problems, which are likely to continue to emerge,” the LAO statement continued. “Second, by further reducing one-time and temporary spending, the Governor leverages a “use it or lose it” tool that improves budget resilience. Finally, the Governor proposes new statutory language that would temporarily set aside anticipated surplus revenues for at least a year.”

The LAO also offered advice to the Legislature as it enters deliberation before presenting a final draft of the 2024-25 state budget to the Governor for approval.

“The Legislature will need to decide how to address prior-year funding for schools and community colleges,” the LAO warned lawmakers about cutting or delaying spending on education.

The LAO also urged policymakers to consider reducing spending on some long-standing programs instead of primarily focusing on new spending and to also be mindful that its estimates on revenue generation or more modest than the Governor office’s projections.

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“Treatment Not Tenements”: Gov. Newsom Updates State on Mental Health, Homelessness Efforts

On May 14, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that his office will speed up the delivery of $3.3 billion in funds allocated to counties and other partners across the state as they work to transform the state’s mental health care system and address the homelessness crisis.

The state aims to build more behavioral health treatment centers and housing units in partnership with cities, counties, tribes, and property developers under Proposition 1.

The state law, which voters approved through a ballot measure in March amends California’s Mental Health Services Act by authorizing of up to $6.8 billion in bonds to build mental health treatment facilities to support people struggling with substance use disorder and mental illness. Under Prop 1, developers can build up to 4,350 housing units and counties are required to spend two-thirds of revenue collected from taxes on millionaires to develop housing and behavioral health programs.

Visiting a behavioral health treatment center undergoing renovations in San Mateo County on May 14, Newsom announced his plans to fast track the funding.

“People are demanding more accountability, with real results,” Newsom said.

“The state will provide counties and cities with resources and tools to foster safer and healthier communities across the state,” Newsom added.

“It’s time to do your job. It’s time to get things done,” Newsom said. “You asked for these reforms, we’ve provided them. Now it’s time to deliver.”

However, some community and local government leaders opposed to Prop 1 argue that the new funding structure to tax millionaires jeopardizes housing programs that exclude drug or mental illness treatment. Advocates for disability rights also argue that more people will be held in these state facilities against their will.

The Newsom Administration insists that the state will monitor programs based on gaps in local services.

Counties, cities, and developers with project proposals can apply for funding when applications open in July this year.

On Visit to Italy, Vatican Gov. Newsom Strengthens Climate Partnerships

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom visited Italy and Vatican City to discuss climate resilience and help develop an international protocol that countries and cities canimplement to address the global climate crisis.

Newsom and other high-profile Democrats – including Governors Kathy Hochul of New York and Maura Healey of Massachusetts --visited a 16th-century villa in the Vatican Gardens, alongside Pope Francis, to attend a three-day Vatican Climate Summit hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Social Sciences.

“This year holds unprecedented significance for democracy and the climate, two intertwined issues which will define our future,” Newsom said. “With half the world’s population poised to elect their leaders amidst a backdrop of escalating political extremism, and global temperatures hurtling towards alarming new heights, the stakes could not be higher.”

Pope Francis is the first pope to prioritize climate change during his papacy. He has published an encyclical based on scientific facts on the harmful impact of climate change. He also released the Laudate Deum, a decree that stressed the need to end the use of fossil fuels.

“The refusal to act quickly to protect the most vulnerable who are exposed to climate change caused by human activity is a serious offense and a grave violation of human rights,” the Pope said at the conference.

In Bologna on May 17, Newsom signed a Memorandum o of Understanding establishing a partnership between California and the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.

“In an increasingly hotter and drier world, the partnership we’re forming today will accelerate efforts to protect communities across the world – all while harnessing the innovative spirit necessary to move away from fossil fuels,” Newsom said at the signing.

Emilia-Romagna President Stefano Bonaccini thanked Newsom for signing the agreement.

“This agreement with the government of the State of California, the fifth largest economy in the world, further strengthens the international dimension of our region, confirming our commitment to develop and share common policies with the most advanced territories in the world on key issues such as combating climate change, ecological transition and environmental protection,” Bonaccini said.

Is Gov. Newsom Running for President? Calif. Republican Slams Governor

Republican Congressmember Kevin Kiley (D-CA-3) blasted Gov. Gavin Newsom in a blog post he published last week.

Once again calling up the lingering speculation that Newsom will either run for president --- or eventually be selected as the Democratic Party’s 2024 presidential candidate -- Kiley argued that the Governor is problematic choice. He cited the Newsom administration’s track record on resolving the housing crisis, lowering taxes, and settling the state’s $68 billion debt.

“Having our taxpayers fund free healthcare for everyone here illegally, amidst an unprecedented budget deficit and border crisis – while cutting support for foster kids and other vulnerable groups – is not who we should be as a state or country,” Kiley said in the blog post.

Kiley also said Newsom’s visit to the Vatican last week to discuss climate change was a strategy to avoid addressing California’s economic state.

“The latest example: we’ve gone from a $98 billion ‘surplus’ to a $73 billion deficit, while enduring the nation’s highest taxes. To escape his own mess, Newsom is now jetting off to the Vatican to talk ‘climate,’” Kiley wrote.

Kiley also recalled a feud with the governor in his effort to overturn Proposition 47, an amendment that reclassified some felonies to misdemeanors for non-violent crimes. Kiley said Newsom filed a complaint filed against him “through a crony” but it was rejected by the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission.

When asked about four weeks ago about running for president, Newsom reiterated his support for President Biden and his confidence in his ability to govern.

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