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June 10, 2015


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

RE:                 News From the Capitol 



Last night the powerful six member Budget Conference Committee met to “close out” hundreds of items related to the 2015-16 State Budget, in order to be able to meet a deadline of next Monday for a Budget vote on the Assembly and Senate floors.  We are pleased to report that one of their final actions last night was to approve an $8 million package, supported by the California Library Association, Assemblyman Mike Gatto and 27 legislators over the past few months.  At approximately 8:30 p.m., on a unanimous vote (6-0), the Budget conferees approved the library funding package which contains the following:

  • $4 million in new additional funding for the California Library Services Act  (we believe this funding is “ongoing” and would be added to the $1.8 million that is currently in the baseline for this item).
  • $4 million in new funding for broadband connection grants, to bring “Phase 2” of the public libraries on to a high-speed “backbone” operated by the group called the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC).  This funding will be “one time” in nature, meaning that it must be spent or encumbered during Budget year 2015-16.  (This figure reflects the $1.5 million provided by the Governor in his May Revision, plus an additional $2.5 million.)

As you are aware, CLA lobbied the Administration during the Fall, requesting that additional funding for several programs such as the CLSA, literacy, and costs related to the broadband connections be included in the Governor’s January Budget.   While the Governor’s January Budget did not include any new funding proposals for libraries, we were pleased that the Governor’s May Revision of the Budget reflected several of those requests.  The Budget Subcommittees in the Assembly and Senate then adopted the Governor’s May Revision amounts for those program areas.  Therefore, in addition to the funding mentioned above, the 2015-16 Budget also includes:

  • $2 million in new additional funding for the state library literacy program.  This amount is ongoing in nature and will now bring the total baseline for that program to $4.8 million.
  • $225,000 in new funding for the administration associated with the CENIC/library project.
  • $521,000 in funding for the State Library, at their request, to begin the digital preservation of important collections and materials at the State Library.

Most gratifying at this year’s Conference Committee was the way in which the 6 conferees praised the value of public libraries during the overview hearing on June 3.  During that hearing, the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office argued that no additional funding for libraries was needed to which Senator Jim Nielsen, the author of the Public Library Foundation program said that libraries had sustained tremendous cuts over the last decade, most notably with the elimination of all funding for his PLF.  He called it a “significant loss,” and when coupled with the cuts to the California Library Services Act, he argued, “we have short-changed libraries and they are an essential service.”  (In tribute to the work that Senator Nielsen has done for libraries throughout the years, the Conference Committee allowed him to make the motion to approve the library funding package last night.)

Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez added, “I agree with what has been stated.  Frankly, the libraries have been left to bleed out.  They have been cut by 92% and we have veterans going to the library to look for employment, children and seniors using the library.  I think it is a great investment to put funding back in.”  Assemblyman Richard Bloom stated, “Ditto that.  I live in a community where we expanded services.”  He then spoke about how his community was able to use local taxing authority to provide many of those services, but offered that not all communities have that ability.  He concluded, “I can’t over-emphasize the importance of this issue.”  Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, the Assembly Budget Chair, recalled a story of how her son came to her one day and wondered if libraries were becoming obsolete.  She then spoke with pride about her San Diego City library and how it has changed the environment downtown for the better, remarking, “Every time a library pops up in a community, it provides new life.” 

The Conference Committee Chair, Senator Mark Leno said, “I join my colleagues in stating the benefit of the wonders and magic of libraries.”  He said that San Francisco was similar to Assemblyman Bloom’s district in Santa Monica, where they have been able to use local taxing authority to boost services.  But he offered, “My heart breaks when my colleagues come to me and I hear stories of doors closed and hours cut.”  In a lighthearted conclusion he said, “Just because I like a good time, I show up for all library ribbon cuttings and people are there by the hundreds – more than for most other events.”   

The developments over the last few months now lead us to a Budget vote, likely on Monday, June 15th – the constitutional deadline for passage of the State Budget.  The Governor will then have until July 1 to sign the Budget and use his so-called “blue pencil” to veto out certain line items, if he so chooses. 

Look for an action alert from us tomorrow, indicating how you can write to the Governor to encourage him to protect the library funding in the Budget.