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Budget Conference Committee Approves $5 Million For Public Libraries In Budget
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June 4, 2014


FROM: Mike Dillon, CLA Lobbyist
Christina DiCaro, CLA Lobbyist

RE: News From the Capitol


As we reported last week, the California legislature’s powerful Budget Conference Committee has begun their work of reconciling the differences between the Governor’s Budget, the Senate Version of the Budget, and the Assembly Version of the Budget.  They have set an ambitious schedule to have their deliberations wrapped up by next Monday, and they have been moving at a quick pace as there is not a great deal of difference between the two houses on many of the big issues.  (e.g. K-12 education, higher education funding, child care, CalWorks, etc.)   This afternoon, on a unanimous vote of the members, the Budget Conference Committee approved $5 million in new funding for public libraries, followed by a series of positive comments about the great work and positive community benefit of public libraries.  

As you are aware, one of the items that the Conferees have before them is a funding request developed by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) and supported by a bi-partisan group of 13 of his legislative colleagues, to try to restore some of the major cuts that the public libraries have endured for the last few years.  The Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance had approved $10 million for public library restoration ($8 million for the California Library Services Act and $2 million for the State adult literacy program), and this amount was then incorporated into the “Assembly Version of the Budget.” This funding would be in addition to the $1.8 baseline currently in the CLSA and the $2.8 million currently in the literacy program.  Also, this funding would be in addition to the money approved recently in the Budget process to provide funding to connect all public libraries to a high-speed, broadband backbone operated by the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California.   

Because the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance did not approve any additional money for the CLSA and the literacy program during their deliberations, this forced the item into the Budget Conference Committee, where it could be properly reconciled. 

This afternoon the Conference Committee took up the State Library Budget where the $10 million funding request is contained.  Over the past two weeks, we have been lobbying key legislators, members of the Budget Conference Committee, and Budget and leadership staff to encourage their support of Assemblyman Gatto’s effort.  When the issue was before the Committee, Chairwoman Nancy Skinner asked the Department of Finance to make a few remarks regarding the proposal.  Keely Bosler, the Deputy Director of the Department of Finance noted that their Department was concerned with additional augmentations beyond the Governor’s January Budget proposal or May Revision of the Budget.  She did recognize that the libraries had been “cut significantly under the Recession and was restored in 2012 to $4.7 million, which helped preserve federal funding.”  Ms. Bosler added that the Governor’s Budget did contain an item “’not in conference’ (e.g. already agreed to by the legislature and Governor) to provide $3.25 million to connect libraries to a high-speed broadband network, which will benefit many low income individuals who don’t have computer access.”  

Assemblywoman Skinner responded, “At its highest point, the libraries were funded at $85 million.  Libraries are still the primary place that people go to apply for a job, use the Internet, get literacy services.  We still have a great rate of illiteracy up and down our state.  For me, the library was often the only place of quiet because I grew up in a family of 11 people.  There is a strong sentiment to have libraries continue to provide services, and there is an interest from the Senate side to meet in the middle.”  Conference Committee Vice Chair, Senator Mark Leno said, “We are very lucky in San Francisco for many reasons.  There the city has a set-aside for library funding because of the voters, the voters also approved G.O. bonds.  This all has improved (library) hours.  I try to go to every ribbon cutting of the libraries and there are hundreds of people there.  It is such a benefit, but I realize that not all communities have this same situation.  The Senate didn’t think we could go for the full $10 million amount, but we could do $5 million.”

Conference Conferee, Assemblyman Richard Bloom said, “I agree, the ribbon cuttings are great.  But the best thing is to see how much [the libraries] are full.  Every seat is taken.  It’s amazing to watch.”  Republican Senator Jim Nielsen, the author of the Public Library Foundation said, “I would be willing to go the extra mile and approve the $10 million,” a gesture which received some fun reaction from the dais.  He told the story of how Governor Brown recently presented Senator Nielsen with an archived copy of the signed PLF bill from 1982 when the bill was enacted and Governor Brown was serving in his first term.  Senator Nielsen said that due to past reductions, he realized that the PLF “was not available to us of late, and so I will go ahead and support the $5 million.”

The item then passed on a unanimous, bi-partisan vote.  As we cautioned last week, the issue still has a long way to go given the comments by the Governor’s Department of Finance.  Over the course of the next week, we will have discussions with the Governor’s Department of Finance in an effort to prevent the Governor from “blue penciling” (or eliminating) the new $5 million.  Also, we should note that while there was no discussion of the specific allocation of the $5 million in Conference Committee, we believe they will be allocating $4 million for CLSA and $1 million for the literacy program.  

Suffice it to say, we would not be enjoying today’s successful vote in Budget Conference Committee without the help of some very important people, most notably Assemblyman Mike Gatto.   Below is a list of the legislators who assisted CLA in this effort.  If you are represented by one of these members, please extend your thanks to him or her at your earliest convenience.  

Budget Conference Committee Members
Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, Chair
Assemblyman Richard Bloom
Assemblyman Jeff Gorell
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber
Senator Mark Leno, Vice Chair
Senator Loni Hancock
Senator Ricardo Lara
Senator Jim Nielsen

And Senate President pro Tempore, Darrell Steinberg

Legislators Who Signed the Budget Request Letter
Assemblyman Mike Gatto (author of the letter)
Assemblyman Luis Alejo
Assemblyman Bill Quirk
Assemblyman Frank Bigelow
Assemblyman Ken Cooley
Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla
Assemblyman Kevin Mullin
Assemblyman Brian Jones
Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian
Assemblyman Brian Maienschein
Assemblyman Chris Holden
Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan
Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva
Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen
Assemblywoman Marie Waldron

And thank you to all CLA members, library supporters, and literacy advocates who wrote members of the Budget Conference Committee and Budget Subcommittees over the past month.