Yesterday May14, Governor Jerry Brown offered his “May Revise” our “wonk speak” term for the annual update or revision of our state’s proposed budget for 2016.
To read in depth about what is in and what is out of our budget, you can go to the California Budget Project web site:
The good news is that revenues are up. The state received $6.7 billion – yes BILLION – more than the governor had projected in January. However, there is precious little good news for those of us serving ever-more-desperate people living on the thin edge.
The largest funding recipient will be our K-14 programs, schools and community colleges. Funding has been restored to pay back the deficiencies incurred in lean years. In addition, the University of California will be funded sufficiently well that tuition will be frozen for the next two years for instate residents. California State Universities, however, will receive far less support despite their controls on student fees over the lean years.
The working poor will benefit some from the creation, put into the budget, of a state Earned Income Tax Credit similar to the federal program. EITC gives direct cash return to low-income working people to compensate for paltry wages. The state EITC will be available to 825,000 families whose breadwinners have worked for wages upon which they have paid taxes. It is not available to those who have not.
In Home Support Services (IHSS) recipients – and therefore their providers – will get the 7 percent cut in hours restored. This will help invalids, the disabled, elders, etc. needing in home care to have more hours that in turn provides 7 percent more income for providers who are low wage working people and family members devoted to a loved one’s care.
The Governor has agreed to fund a small program to aid those immigrants granted lawful status by President Barak Obama. The Governor’s Director of Finance indicated that this population would then also be covered by health insurance, usually Medi-Cal.
Cap-and-trade revenues will be partly directed into affordable housing although how and where that occurs is not yet clear.
This is all the good news.
Most of the surplus will go to cover the new Proposition 2 “rainy day fund” requirements along with debt retirement. This means that once again, those whose programs were cut will not see restoration. Those on disability, the time-limited welfare program, and other
Here is the major deficiency of this 2015-16 budget as a moral guidepost:
*there is no money to restore CalWORKs cash grants that pay for rent, utilities, non-food items, clothing, etc. for families trying to escape poverty. Currently the cash grant is approximately enough for a one bedroom apartment in a few parts of the state and well below that level in many areas such as Los Angeles and San Francisco. This grant is not without burden since those without very young children are expected to work for that sum, meaning they work for less than minimum wage and that work will not qualify for EITC assistance.
*there is no increase in child care support funding. Those who are working on CalWORKs or employed in low-wage jobs will still have to find child care for their pre-school age children without adequate availability or assistance from the state.
*there is no increase in funding for services aiding those with developmental disabilities.
*there will be no Cost of Living Allowance increase for people on disability.
With the exception of the hour restoration of IHSS, nothing at all has been done to restore pre-recession levels of funding for social programs in California. We had no problem cutting these to ‘save money’ in the budget. We apparently have no appetite for sharing the current increases with those whose programs were decimated.
Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) who is the Budget Committee’s top Republican said he was very pleased with the lack of spending and fiscal discipline of this year’s budget. “We don’t want a spending spree,” he said.
The Governor echoed the sentiment. Fiscal restraint is the main goal. “We have to learn from history and not keep repeating the same mistakes,” he declared Thursday.
Those in need, therefore, remain far below the goal of fiscal balance with no thought given to the sacrifices they already made.
WHY FAITHFUL FRIDAYS ARE SO IMPORTANT
California has the highest level of poverty in the United States. Programs that kept people from dire want were cut repeatedly by the Legislature and the governors who saw one compelling reason to use those programs as cash resources – the poor very often have no presence in Sacramento, no voice in the Capitol.
We now have just under one month before the budget has to be finished in both houses. That is four Fridays for you to make justice a central point of your advocacy.
Get a group assembled, 3-5 people, and visit district offices especially on Fridays when your Assembly Member and Senator will be at home. If you cannot visit, call or FAX your officials – but let your voice be heard!
Make clear that while fiscal responsibility is a moral good, failing to provide excellent stewardship over social programs is not.
We used the already meager resources designed to alleviate the impacts of poverty. We took those funds away to balance the budget for the past several years.
Now it is time to restore, refund, refresh those programs and put an essential hand under the elbow of every man, woman, and child in want.
Congregations are doing more than their part – but we do not have the resources to offer the social justice that comes by providing continuing essentials.
Let your legislators know via visits, calls, FAX that this state, to be a true leader, must direct far more of its bounty to restoring programs for those in need. The poor made their sacrifices for the state. Now the state must provide restitution for those in need. That’s the moral foundation of a truly great state and society.
Don’t know your elected officials? Go to: http://www.churchimpact.org/take-action.html
Log in your address and ZIP code, and you will be taken directly to your legislators’ home pages. For your first time, you will get a verification code to enter assuring that no one other than you will be signing you up to get alerts from IMPACT.
Then use your links to let your voice be heard on Faithful Fridays - or any other days of the week!