Proposed CA budget cuts alarm advocates

Gov. Gavin Newsom addressed the media to unveil his 2024-25 January budget proposal at the Secretary of State Auditorium in Sacramento on Jan. 10, 2024. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters
Gov. Gavin Newsom addressed the media to unveil his 2024-25 January budget proposal at the Secretary of State Auditorium in Sacramento on Jan. 10, 2024. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters
Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his initial 2024-25 budget proposal at the Secretary of State Auditorium in Sacramento on Jan. 10, 2024. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

After Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his initial budget proposal last week, advocacy and interest groups decried many of his proposed cuts or delays in funding — including for climate change programs and healthcare wages. The governor deems these cuts necessary to plug the state’s $38 billion budget hole (or $58 billion if you go by the Legislative Analyst’s Office numbers), and says his plan protects key investments in education, public safety, mental health care reform and other priorities.

Still, intense lobbying will continue for months as legislators and these interest groups attempt to wrangle money for their causes. The governor has until May to revise the budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year, and the entire process lasts at least through June, when legislators must sign off on a budget deal lest they don’t get paid. Until then, some more winners and losers from Newsom’s January proposal are becoming clearer:

State park goers: About 68 million people visit California state parks every year, but getting in for free might get harder for California residents as Newsom proposes to eliminate funding for two park access programs. One is the California State Park Adventure Pass, which allows fourth graders and their families free entry to 54 state parks. The other is the California State Library Parks Pass, which allows Californians with a library card to get a day-use vehicle pass to 200 state parks for free (typically saving $10-$15 per vehicle.) These programs are part of Newsom’s Outdoors for All initiative, which received $9.1 million for three years starting in 2021-22. 

  • Rachel Norton, California State Parks Foundation executive director, in a statement: “The cost of entry can deter people from experiencing the natural wonders within these parks, thereby excluding them from the numerous physical and mental health benefits, educational opportunities, and recreational activities that these spaces offer.”

Foster kids: The governor proposed slashing $30 million from the California Family Urgent Response System, which includes a 24/7 hotline, for foster care youth and their caregivers, reports the Los Angeles Times. Newsom also proposed delaying $80 million in funding for the Bringing Families Home Program, which seeks to reduce homelessness for families in the child welfare system. 

  • Ted Lempert, Children Now president, in a statement: “While we recognize the large deficit affecting the Administration’s budget proposal, we can’t continue down this path of deprioritizing kids that has led to alarmingly poor outcomes.”

The city of Fresno: Long regarded as an anchor to Central Valley’s economy and vital to the state’s future (especially in relation to California’s high speed rail project), Fresno and its downtown have been undergoing a revitalization, fueled in part by a $250 million investment by the state. But Newsom plans to delay about $200 million, which would fund infrastructure improvements, green spaces and upgrading sewer systems, according to The Fresno Bee. In a statement, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer said the governor let him know that “he is not backing away from his commitment to downtown Fresno.”

  • Dyer: “We will continue to be relentless in the pursuit of these dollars and to ensure Fresno receives what was previously committed by the governor and the Legislature.”

Newsom vows to veto football bill: Speaking of the governor, he quickly sought Tuesday to put the kibosh on a contentious measure to ban tackle football for California children under 12. In a statement, first reported by Politico, he said that an “outright ban is not the answer.” But he pledged to work with legislators “to strengthen safety in youth football — while ensuring parents have the freedom to decide which sports are most appropriate for their children.”

As CalMatters Digital Democracy reporter Ryan Sabalow explained Tuesday, the bill has riled up parental rights supporters and Republicans, who plan an opposition rally today at the state Capitol.  

CalMatters events: The first ones of 2024 are scheduled: Jan. 23 on California’s multibillion-dollar overhaul of the troubled unemployment benefits system; and Feb. 13 on school battles over book bans and forced outing policies.

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Is Newsom’s homeless camp plan working?

A sidewalk filled with tents in San Diego, on July 31, 2023. Photo by Mike Blake, Reuters
A sidewalk filled with tents in San Diego, on July 31, 2023. Photo by Mike Blake, Reuters

For some California cities, the grants they received to clear homeless encampments — as part of Gov. Newsom’s $750 million Encampment Resolution Fund — has helped them take some unhoused individuals off the streets. But whether the endeavor will lead to a significant number of homeless Californians finding permanent housing remains to be seen.

As CalMatters homelessness reporter Marisa Kendall explains, since receiving the first round of checks more than a year ago from the state, cities including San Jose, Los Angeles and Oakland have spent nearly two-thirds of the $48 million awarded. The money has paid for things such as shelter beds, tiny homes, motel stays and security deposits for rental apartments.

But taking someone from an encampment and finding them long-term housing isn’t easy. Sixteen of the 19 jurisdictions that received funding have yet to completely clear their targeted encampments. Tulare, for example, used its $1.6 million grant to clear five encampments where about 100 people lived. As of December, only 44 people from those camps landed in permanent housing. San Jose used its funding to move nearly 200 people off its Guadalupe River Trail. But fewer than 10% have made it into permanent housing and another 37% moved into temporary shelter. 

Some believe Newsom should provide more ongoing funding for homelessness.

  • Sharon Rapport, director of California state policy for the Corporation for Supportive Housing: “If you are investing only in an intervention that’s temporary, then the solution is temporary. It’s not going to result in reducing homelessness. It’s just going to result in a lot of people using our shelter beds.” 

Gov. Newsom has made clearing homeless encampments something of a cause. He and local officials of both parties cheered last week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a case that could give cities more leeway in dealing with the encampments. 

To learn more about how cities are spending their money from the state’s Encampment Resolution Fund, read Marisa’s story.

Campaign finance fines to note

California State Treasurer Fiona Ma running for reelection is interviewed at the CalMatters offices on Sept. 28, 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters
State Treasurer Fiona Ma is interviewed at the CalMatters offices on Sept. 28, 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters

For two high-profile California officials, it’s time to pay up.

The state’s Fair Political Practices Commission is expected to hand down fines Thursday against State Treasurer Fiona Ma and former Los Angeles sheriff Alex Villanueva, both of whom admit violating various campaign finance laws, all the way back in 2018.

Ma, who in June announced her ambitions to become lieutenant governor in 2026, will be fined $11,500 for her election committee’s failure to timely disclose over $860,000 in subvendor payments, or payments to a company that is hired by a committee to provide a service. In Ma’s case, payments were made to Sadler Strategic Media, Inc., a California company that specializes in media planning, but were not reported in time.

According to the stipulation agreed to by Ma’s campaign, it also failed to maintain proper records for its payments to Sadler Media, and didn’t timely disclose three charges (together totaling over $37,000) on the committee’s credit card.

Ma’s tenure as treasurer has been riddled with controversy. In 2020, Ma almost lost the state nearly $457 million in a fraudulent deal to secure N95 masks before two banks involved in the transaction flagged their suspicions.

Meanwhile, Villanueva accepted multiple campaign contributions from a single donor, according to the settlement, which resulted from a joint investigation with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. 

The donor, Manuel Gomez, owned several burger franchise locations and donated to Villanueva’s campaign under different names of various restaurant employees whom Gomez supervised. Each of the additional 14 contributions was in the amount of $1,500 — the maximum amount an individual could contribute at the time. According to the settlement, many of the intermediaries “could not speak English” and some could not write in English. For this and other related violations, the commission is expected to fine Villanueva $57,500.

Campus leaders not as diverse as CA

Students walk across campus at Fresno State in Fresno on Feb. 8, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela for CalMatters
Students walk across campus at Fresno State University on Feb. 8, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela for CalMatters

From CalMatters higher education reporter Mikhail Zinshteyn:

Despite California’s diversity, with white residents in the minority, its public systems of higher education continue to employ too few professors and administrators who are persons of color.

That’s according to a series of reports Tuesday from The Campaign for College Opportunity, which writes that faculty diversity “is embarrassingly low, particularly in comparison to the racial composition of the student body. The numbers show that progress in this regard has been worse than slow — the needle has hardly moved.”

The analysis of University of California, California State University and California Community College faculty, student and administrative positions is an update to the nonprofit advocacy group’s 2018 report that served as a statistical basis for the ill-fated effort to reinstate race-based affirmative action in California. Now using race as a factor in admissions across the U.S is all but dead.

The report finds that:

  • Just 7% of senior campus leaders at the UCs are Latino, compared to 25% of UC students, 39% of all Californians, and 49% of Californians who are between 18 and 24;
  • Faculty members who are Latino comprise 8% of tenured or tenure-track faculty members at UC campuses, 10% at the CSU, and 18% at community colleges;
  • At the Cal States, 70% of faculty in the systemwide Academic Senate are white and at the campus level senates, 64% are white. By comparison, white students make up 21% of Cal State’s undergraduate population.

Nor can the state point to a lack of graduate students from diverse backgrounds as a problem, the report indicates, because the UCs and Cal States already award graduate degrees to tens of thousands of students of color.

Without adequate representation among educators and administrators, students of color lack role models and mentors who look like them or can relate to their unique lived experiences, the authors write.

The report also recognizes areas where staffing more closely reflects the state’s diversity. For example:

  • The share of tenured or tenure-track professors who are women has grown from 33% to 40% at the UC and from 47% to 49% at Cal States. 
  • Half of Cal State campuses are led by presidents who come from Asian American, Black, Latino or Pacific Islander backgrounds.

CalMatters Commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Lingering problems from the meltdown of California’s Employment Development Department during the pandemic could cost the state billions of dollars.

A lot is at stake with the U.S. Supreme Court agreeing to hear a case that determines how and when cities can clear homeless camps — for homeless individuals most of all, writes Jeffrey Selbin, co-director of the Policy Advocacy Clinic at the UC Berkeley School of Law.

Other things worth your time:

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Can pumping carbon into oil fields help stop global warming? // Los Angeles Times

As abandoned boats pile up, who’s responsible for environmental damage? // The Mercury News

CA bill would pave way for psychedelic therapy // Los Angeles Times

CA must do more to on teachers and reading, study says // EdSource

Google eliminating ‘few hundred’ jobs in ad sales // USA Today

Bosses are sending office workers to etiquette class // Los Angeles Times

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