June 11, 2013
TO: CLA Members/ Systems/ Network Contacts
FROM: Mike Dillon, CLA Lobbyist
Christina DiCaro, CLA Lobbyist
RE: News From the Capitol
BUDGET DEAL IS REACHED BUT LOWER REVENUE ASSUMPTIONS REQUIRE DEEP CUTS – BROADBAND AND LITERACY PROGRAMS FALL VICTIM
Conference Committee adopts Budget language for State Library study
Monday afternoon there were rumors abounding at the State Capitol that a Budget agreement had been reached, but what soon surfaced almost simultaneously were details that would portend to be bad news for the newly approved $3 million in Budget funds for public library programs. Around 2 p.m. we learned that the Democrat leaders and the Governor had agreed over the weekend and then again on Monday to the terms of a deal, but it would require that the legislature accept the lower Budget revenue estimates that the Governor presented in his May Revise. The Budget Conference Committee had been working with revenue estimates more in line with the Legislative Analyst’s Office, who assumed a rosier $3 billion plus increase in the state’s fiscal situation since January. While a couple of top priority programs were funded – the Assembly Speaker’s Middle Class Scholarship, and the Senate President pro Tem’s funding for adult dental care and mental health, many other programs that previously received funding over the course of the Budget Conference Committee deliberations were zeroed out, including the $3 million in funding for the new CLA program to connect public libraries to a high-speed, broadband statewide backbone, and new funding for adult literacy.
As a bit of foreshadowing, CLA members may recall from our May 15th “News From the Capitol,” that when the Governor revealed his May Revision of the Budget, he said he would resist attempts to spend down the surplus: “Everyone wants to have more spending,” the Governor said. “This place is a spending machine. They can push, but I can push back. I’m the backstop. I need to keep things balanced.”
When the Budget Conference Committee finally convened last night at 5 p.m., Senate Budget Chair Mark Leno said, “Today we will accept the Department of Finances’ revenues, and while disappointed, at first blush, there is some wisdom to it. These assumptions are conservative and it puts the state at less risk. We are still able to take action on the top priorities (for the Democrat leadership), and in January, when higher revenues are realized, we hope to review these programs (zeroed out) again and make the case to the Administration with the hopes of making a restoration at that time.” The Budget Conference Committee co-chair, Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield added, “We are accepting the Governor’s revenue numbers not because we are convinced they are right. We are more accepting of the LAO’s. But we need to get a deal. We accept this and we say we ‘live to fight another day.’ This is all about compromise.”
Around 9:00 p.m. the Budget Conference Committee took up the issue of the State Library funding, first discussing the high-speed broadband network connection to CENIC (the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California). The Department of Finance said that in light of the assumption of the lower revenue estimates, “We are not prepared to commit ongoing funding at this time.” Chairman Leno noted that the recommendation would be to zero out the $2.25 million previously approved last Wednesday for the program but Budget Bill language would require the State Library to conduct a needs assessment to determine connectivity needs of public libraries throughout the state and report those findings to the Department of Finance, the Legislative Analyst’s Office, and the Chairs and Vice Chairs of the Budget Subcommittees on Education. Chairman Leno then called the proposal, “A very important public service.” Budget Conference Committee conferee and Chair of the Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell expressed her frustration with zeroing out the funding stating, “I am saying this facetiously – I am going to go to a library and try to apply for the Affordable Care Act on a slow computer and then report back to the State Librarian how I did.” Senator Loni Hancock called the CENIC/CLA proposal, “One of the important things we can do as a state. I am disappointed we can’t do this this year. I am glad we are doing the needs assessment. We will get more information and as the money comes in I hope we will be able to move on this.” Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner added, “We are trying to create efficiencies in a lot of our programs. As a state we moved to lots of online applications for things like education, CalFresh, etc….This ultimately reduces our state costs. Meanwhile, for much of the population, the library is the place they go for (computer) access. It is a low expenditure for a great deal of common good. I am very disappointed.” Senator Leno then closed by stating, “I am disappointed too, and this is on our list of potential restorations. We will have another opportunity to revisit this after we see the January Budget numbers.”
With regard to the literacy program, the Conference Committee voted to eliminate the $750,000 for adult literacy, previously approved last Wednesday. Senator Leno said, “This is also a difficult one. We all made impassioned arguments for this program just the other day. It is something that will live to fight another day, hopefully in the next 6 months.”
Yesterday’s surprising turn of events was disappointing on many levels. The only solace we took from the bruising 4 ½ hour evening session was the fact that there appears to be much support for the two programs and we have been impressed with how many people from the Governor’s Office, the Legislative Analyst’s Office, and the many committee consultants have been discussing CLA’s proposals this year. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Deputy Director for the Department of Finance said they would encourage the State Library to move quickly on the needs assessment and suggested that CLA and the State Library schedule a meeting with Finance in September or October to update them on the progress of the assessment.
At 9:30 p.m. the Budget Conference Committee signed the Conference Committee report, thus finalizing their work for the 2013-14 Budget. The Budget bill will now be prepped and it is anticipated it will be taken up for a vote on Friday or Saturday.