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Senate Budget Committee Hears Library Funding Issue: Takes No Action
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May 3, 2012

FROM:            Mike Dillon, CLA Lobbyist
                        Christina DiCaro, CLA Lobbyist
RE:                 News From the Capitol
This morning CLA and library supporters testified before the Senate Budget Subcommittee Number One on Education Finance at the State Capitol, in an effort to encourage the legislature to support an action to restore $15.2 million in funding for the California Library Services Act, the Public Library Foundation, and the state literacy program. As you are aware, the Governor’s Budget last year proposed eliminating all $30.4 million in total funding for these three programs. CLA was able to negotiate a compromise with the legislature and the Governor’s Administration to save half of the funding, or $15.2 million. This funding, however, fell victim to the so-called “Budget Trigger,” a mechanism which was enacted by the legislature and the Governor to make further Budget cuts, should $4 billion in General Fund dollars not materialize later in the year. As of this writing, the State Budget contains zero dollars for the CLSA, PLF, and the literacy programs. But CLA is endeavoring to push for a restoration of $15.2 million to save these valuable programs and approximately $17 million in corresponding federal funding. 
At today’s hearing, there was extensive discussion between the Chair, Senator Carol Liu and the Department of Finance, the Legislative Analyst’s Office, and the State Librarian, Stacey Aldrich about the complicated formula required (a “match” and a “maintenance of effort”) by the federal government, to make California eligible for any federal library funding. Today Mike Dillon, on behalf of CLA, asked the subcommittee members to rely less on the precise lesser figures that could be cobbled together to bring California a small amount of federal funding, and rather stressed that the $15.2 million restoration is essential in order to preserve the programs and the larger federal share. 
Chairwoman Liu asked the Legislative Analyst’s Office to bring her an analysis of what percent of the library budget is the overall percentage of the State Budget, and “why such major cuts?” The LAO noted that the legislature faces an “overall limitation on where you can cut and then there are also federal constraints. Options are limited. We are happy to do a chart for you to indicate where most of the cuts to programs have fallen.”
During the general discussion about the value of libraries, Subcommittee member, Senator Rod Wright noted that many of his constituents in his South Central Los Angeles district don’t have computers and they rely on the library to provide this service. He also stressed that the library has increasingly become a “safe haven” for students to use as a de-facto “after school center, where they can do their homework and where parents will pick them up after work.”   State Librarian Aldrich concurred that the library is really the hub of a community, and “there is no place like them, where someone is always available to help you find a book, find job information, etc.”
Additional testimony in support of the $15.2 million restoration of funds came from CLA Legislative Chair, Jane Light (recently retired as the San Jose Library Director); Laura Seaholm, the Program Manager for Project Second Chance and a member of the CLA Legislative Committee; Tracy Azvedo, an adult learner who shared a compelling personal story; Stephanie Doran, his literacy tutor; and several members representing the blind community who are particularly concerned with the potential elimination of the Braille and Talking Books program if the federal funds are eliminated.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Senator Liu thanked everyone for coming to testify and said that the subcommittee would be keeping the item “open in order to wait for the May Revise. We will walk this path together and we will be very careful.” 
The Governor is expected to release his “May Revise” or “May Revision” to the January 2012-13 Budget on or around May 14th. This much-anticipated “Revise” will present a more accurate picture of the state’s finances, following April tax receipts, etc. After the subcommittee has an opportunity to review the “May Revise,” they will then reconvene to close out the “open items” and make recommendations to the full Senate Budget Committee. 
Their Assembly Subcommittee counterparts will convene next Wednesday at 4 p.m. at the State Capitol in order to hear the State Library issues. Please look to CLA Legislative Alerts next week, and the week to follow with instructions on writing the key leaders of the Budget Committees and Leadership, to urge their strong support of the $15.2 million in funding for the three library programs.