May 22, 2013
TO: CLA MEMBERS/ SYSTEMS/ NETWORK CONTACTS
FROM: Mike Dillon, CLA Lobbyist
Christina DiCaro, CLA Lobbyist
RE: News From the Capitol
ASSEMBLY BUDGET SUBCOMMITTEE APPROVES CLA’S $5 MILLION FUNDING REQUEST
This morning the Assembly Budget Subcommittee Number 2 on Education Finance met to consider several “for vote only” items, including CLA’s $5 million “Budget ask,” which was approved on a bi-partisan vote of the subcommittee.
You will recall that on April 24 we appeared before the subcommittee to request General Fund support to connect all public library outlets to the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California’s (CENIC) high-speed, statewide broadband “backbone.” We also requested a modest amount of funding for the State literacy program, to help backfill some of the recent cuts they have sustained. CLA Executive Director, Rosario Garza also testified at that hearing, to stress the positive impact this funding would create for all library patrons.
We previously reported that during the April hearing, the Chair, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla made a series of very positive comments about the role of libraries in communities, and she indicated her subcommittee’s interest in pursuing our “Budget ask” further. She also stated that it was the approach of her subcommittee not to leave any federal funding on the table, when it would clearly be of benefit in providing necessary services. Any augmentation to the current level of state funding for public libraries helps to shore up the State Library’s efforts to qualify for federal funding.
For the last three months, we have had countless meeting with the subcommittee staff in both houses, Chairwoman Bonilla, the Legislative Analyst’s Office, Department of Finance, the Senate President pro Tem and Assembly Speaker’s office, and numerous other consultants, legislators, and staff, in a concerted effort to highlight the importance of the overall proposal. But throughout this process, it has been Chairwoman Bonilla who has been steadfast in her support for public libraries, and we owe her our collective thanks for keeping our issue alive.
Today’s hearing agenda contained an official staff recommendation which read: “Appropriate $5 million General Fund to the State Library to support the CENIC project and adult literacy program.” (Note: Specifics regarding the break-down of this figure will have to be worked out over the coming weeks.) This recommendation was approved by the subcommittee on a vote of 5-0 (voting “aye” were all of the members: Chairwoman Bonilla, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, Assemblyman Brian Nestande, and Assemblyman Phil Ting). If you are represented by any of these members, please take the opportunity at some point to thank them for their support.
While this is positive news today, we still have a long way to go in terms of process. For example, we do not expect the Senate Budget Subcommittee to include any funding for these programs in their agenda to be voted on tomorrow, despite our earlier request. No action out of the Senate Budget Subcommittee would mean that the issue will go to the powerful Budget Conference Committee where the differences between the Assembly version of the Budget and the Senate version of the Budget must be reconciled. (This is commonly done, and will involve some higher-stakes negotiations during the first two weeks of June.)
It should be noted that the CLA “Budget ask” is not without controversy as it unfortunately involves an issue quite out of our control. Originally, CLA was seeking a $2.25 million General Fund appropriation and a “matching” $2.25 million that CENIC would acquire from the Teleconnect Fund. However, over the last few weeks we have learned that the Public Utilities Commission, which oversees the Teleconnect Fund, is under fire in the Legislature. Recently the Assembly Budget Subcommittee that oversees the PUC Budget held an overview hearing, in which they reviewed information from an analysis of the funds by the Office of State Audits and Evaluations. That initial audit found, “Because of deficiencies in its forecasting models, CPUC is not always able to reliably project the revenues, reimbursements, or expenditures for the funds it administers. [The auditors] identified variances were as much as 73 percent and $189 million in revenues and as much as 99 percent and $212 million in expenditures. Most variances were found to be unexplainable. …The magnitude and scope of the mismanagement of CPUC’s internal budgeting, forecasting and accounting practices is alarming…Inaccurate forecasts make it impossible for the Legislature to know the actual performance of CPUC’s funds and programs.”
Because of this increased interest in the PUC, and because the legislature cannot accurately assess whether or not there are sufficient funds currently in the Teleconnect Fund for the CENIC “match,” CLA is asking the legislature to provide the entire $4.5 million in General Fund dollars, and eliminate reliance on the “match” by the Teleconnect Fund at this time. It appears that a secondary audit will be conducted, and then we will have a better idea of the true “health” of the Teleconnect Fund. In the meantime, we have had to push back several suggestions within the legislature to abandon the project this Budget year and resurrect the issue next year. We are pressing forward with our usual “pick and shovel work” on the $5 million “ask.”
The Budget Conference Committee will begin meeting in earnest the first two weeks of June, in an effort to present a Budget to the Governor by June 15th, their constitutional deadline. Once the Senate action has been finalized, we will alert you to the next steps. Our focus will be to have CLA members and supporters contact the Assembly and Senate Budget Chairs and Vice Chairs to urge their support of the CLA Budget proposal. Contact information for these individuals, as well as messaging will follow in our next “News From the Capitol.”