Governor Brown’s approval of the 2016-2017 California budget highlights several key issues California Partnership’s members have championed such as: access to Medi-Cal for children of undocumented families, petition for Covered Ca expansion to all Californians regardless of immigration status, a small increase in SSI, and the repeal of the Maximum Family Grant. Although not perfect, this budget is taking steps towards improving the well being of Californians across the state. The continued expansion of prisons and jails is a huge disappointment. The money we spend jailing poor people could go a long way towards housing, education, and mental health treatment. California cannot continue to treat our endemic social problems with mass incarceration. The remaining uninsured continue to live without access to health care as we set aside an “extra” $2 billion dollars for the rainy day fund. Maribel Nunez, Executive Director of the California Partnership asks, “on whom does it need to rain on before we recognize that sick people need to have access to health care?" If the legislators would stop shifting the responsibility of increasing revenue onto the ballot, we would be able to plan and manage a budget that does not neglect the most vulnerable in the state.
Several of CAP’s statewide coalition partners highlighted both the victories and disappointments of this upcoming fiscal year. In their statement, SEIU State Council says "California will be a stronger state with greater opportunity for all as a result of crucial advances made in this year’s budget to increase investment in child care, abolish the discriminatory and antiquated Maximum Family Grant, fully fund home care, and begin restoring services for people with developmental disabilities. These significant advances are the direct result of years of advocacy by caregivers, seniors, people with disabilities, and advocates for children and low-income Californians.”
Some of the key victories immigrant rights groups and health care providers are celebrating include the investment and implementation of Health4All kids and the signing of SB10. Luz Gallegos from TODEC says that she is “happy to see the investment in social service programs like Health4All kids SB75. Health care is a necessity, not a luxury”. California is one step closer to ensuring everyone in the state, regardless of immigration status, has access to health care.
Lorena Lara from Faith-in-Action says that the organization is “glad to see the Governor prioritize investment in our immigrant community by increasing the money in One California to $30 million. This is an important step in ensuring our immigrant brothers and sisters have access to critical resources. However, the state needs to do more to curtail the continued expansion of CA’s prison system; those $270 million should have gone towards services in the community. We need to prioritize an investment in our communities rather than their incarceration”.
One of the disappointing budget items is the lack of comprehension from both the Governor and legislators on the glaring reality that folks with disabilities and the elderly on SSI/SSP are living in poverty. Frank Tamborello, from Hunger Action Los Angeles, mentions that although this budget is making an attempt at relieving some of the burdens many community members currently face, “the $4 per month increase in SSI is a step, but a very, very small one that we’re hoping is just a down payment in repairing the program that provides 1.5 million senior and disabled residents with the only resources they have for housing, food, transportation and out of pocket medical costs.” Cynde Soto, from CALIF is also “disappointed by the meager SSI/SSP $4 COLA that the Governor has included in this year’s budget. People with disabilities and seniors are living in abject poverty in the community or being forced into institutions because they are unable to pay for rent, utilities, and food. Instead of giving a hand up out of poverty, our most vulnerable residents are being left behind by the Governor's ‘rainy day fund’. It's already pouring on our community and we need a life raft!”
In the coalition’s press release of the budget, Lizzie Buchen from CURB says the group is “deeply opposed to the state’s prioritization of imprisonment as an intervention for poor people and people of color. By pouring more money into fortifying and expanding our expansive systems of prisons and jails, Brown is smoothing the way for ever-harsher sentences and policies, ensuring that today’s children will be imprisoned at the same sky-high rates as their parents and grandparents are today. His bankrolling of prison and jail construction is a declaration that the programs for treatment, rehabilitation, and reentry that he claims to support will do nothing to stem the flow of poor people into cages.”
This year’s budget is by no means a solution to eliminating poverty in our state. It is important that California Partnership and our partners remain critical about where state funds are being spent and continue pushing for long term, sustainable solutions that aim towards equity and justice for all Californians. As advocates, organizers, community members, and grassroots leaders, we will continue to use our platforms to amplify the voices of our communities and put our communities’ needs at the forefront of our work.