Earlier this month, Governor Brown came out with his 2017-2018 May Revise budget proposal. The statement makes a few positive changes in the Health and Human Services sector, but still lacks definitive commitment to funding and investments in CA’s poor and marginalized communities. This year’s May Revise budget proposal was yet another outcry of “California’s revenues did not meet projections.” This mantra is chanted each May during the ritualized ceremony of parsing up California’s estimated $239,552,000,000* budget. In other words, there is not much money for programs the Governor does not like. With federal threats looming, California is at a critical point in time where we can begin to change the political tide, if the state’s leadership chooses to do so. In the next few weeks, “California's legislators must be willing to challenge the Governor on what we as a state wish to invest in. We have seen the votes, and Californians are looking to decarceration and investment in equitable health and human services and a robust social safety net,” Maribel Nunez, Executive Director, California Partnership.
A significant change made from earlier this year is funding streams for the In Home Supportive Services program. Rather than shifting the full $592.2 million dollar shared cost over to counties, the state will support counties with the cost over the next few years. For the 2017-2018 budget cycle, $400 million dollars from the General Funds will be used to support IHSS costs, while counties will be responsible for providing $141 million dollars. Counties’ financial obligation to the IHSS program will continue to increase over time, providing them with sufficient time to adjust to the financial responsibility.
As we saw in early January, there is no change to the state grant SSI/SSP funds for recipients this year. The May Revise accounts for last year’s 2016-2017 updated COLA. However, a reinstated COLA since 2005 should not be praiseworthy, especially if the Governor is not willing to adjust it yearly to take into account the economic impact on SSI/SSP recipients. Governor Brown’s office argues that the drop in SSI/SSP caseloads is their reasoning in cuts rather than investments. Andrew Cheyne, Director of Government Affairs for the California Association of Food Banks and CA4SSI states that, “This budget continues the approximately $1 billion a year cuts on the blind, elderly
and Californians with disabilities who rely on the Supplemental Security Income/State Supplemental Payment program (SSI/SSP) to meet their basic needs...This is an unconscionable proposal that forces more than a million Californians to live in poverty.”
The proposal for healthcare investments is comparable to what we saw back in January. Governor Brown has made it apparent that he will not base the healthcare budget on threats made at the federal level. He will continue to fund healthcare with the ACA in mind until there is a more definite answer as to the status of the ACA. Aurora Garcia-Barrera, organizer with Health Access, applauds “Governor Brown’s commitment to push back on the decisions of the Trump administration…”. Garcia-Barrera also mentions that with prop 56 funds coming in, Health Access and many other health care advocates believe:
“...we can improve the Medi-Cal program by expanding eligibility and coverage through Health4All Young Adults, restoring benefits that had previously been cut, such as full adult dental, protecting access to FamilyPACT and abortion services, and making targeted, data-driven increases in provider reimbursements, we can really stand up to the federal threats we are facing.”
One victory celebrated by healthcare and immigrant rights groups is the end to the Newly Qualified Immigrant Wrap program for eligible legal permanent residents. This will allow for the individuals to continue receiving their care through their full-scope Medi-cal benefits and prevent possible coverage loss and uncertainties through the shift to Covered CA.
Although there is no mention of SB 562 by the Governor Brown, Californians are already taking the lead in finding alternative health care infrastructures for the state. California has the opportunity to spend less on our healthcare and receive better outcomes just like the rest of the world does with their single payer systems. We need a system that provides quality health coverage to every single Californian, regardless of where they were born or the language they speak.
While several social safety net programs have either taken a cut or remained stagnant in funding, the Corrections’ Budget only seems to get bigger. California’s 2017-2018 corrections’ budget is $250 million dollars more than last year’s. It seems that the Governor’s office is refusing to look at California voter trends, which have pointed towards decarceration through prop 47, 57, and 64. Charles Berry, Board Member with Initiate Justice (member organization of CURB), shared his story around the impacts of a hyper-criminalized state. Berry points out that “there are a lot of people in prison, unnecessarily so, who are ready to come home. I’m a case in point”.
This year’s budget also includes money for the California Leadership Academy, a prison with a “college like setting”. Berry mentions the following:
“The California Leadership Academy is in the proposed budget as well...they're
planning on building another prison...which we know is crazy because the prison rate is declining right now...We don’t need more prisons. This is money that should be going towards education, towards social services”. What will it take for Governor Brown to stop bending to the whims of the Sheriffs and other punitive systems and begin investing in community-based programs and solutions?
Another significant change between January and May’s budget proposal, is the reinstatement of childcare funding that was allocated from last year’s budget. Due to the “unforeseeable circumstances” and revenues not meeting their target, Governor Brown had placed a pause on funding for slots and child care provider rates until 2018-2019. Mary Ignatius with Parent Voices was “glad he kept his promise. But failure to also update 10-yr old income guidelines to qualify for child care means minimum wage benefits for low-income working parents will be squandered if they lose access to affordable child care. To achieve the full promise of a higher minimum wage, we are calling on the Governor and the Legislature to include new funding in the budget to defrost the frozen income guidelines.”
Noreen Farrell, Executive Director of Equal Rights Advocates and Chair of the Stronger California Advocates Network, was also underwhelmed by the May Revise release. She believes that “the Governor missed an important opportunity in his May budget revise to provide women and families with the full support they need from the state's budget”. This is especially true with programs like CalWORKs, who the Governor sees fit to be on the chopping block for funding because of decrease in caseloads. This program is already extremely underfunded and will only continue to keep poor and working class families in an abysmal cycle of poverty. We hope to see the legislature step up and make sure child care and CalWORKs take precedence in this year’s budget.
Although approved last year through the No Place Like Home Initiative, funding for the Housing Disability Advocacy Program (HDAP) is nowhere to be found in this year’s budget. It is unfortunate that the Governor has chosen to rescind the over $40million dollars toward this crucial program. The legislature has made it clear that this will be one of their priorities and hope they will push for funding when negotiating with Governor Brown’s office.
There are only a few weeks left until California adopts its first state budget under the Trump administration. The federal budget release only proves that California must continue to fight for all our marginalized communities and cut down on costs that do not prioritize the wellbeing of ALL Californians. We need a plan that ensures that everyone- from workers making the minimum wage to people who are unable to work and depend on SSI- never have to choose between food or paying rent. The state has the resources to start that plan today- right now- and begin to build back a state, an economy, and a community that we can all be proud of.
Mary Koharchick, Erick Lemus, Jared McCreary, Jeff Green, Karen Kandamby,
Maribel Nunez and Ipyani Lockert