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Senate Budget Subcommittee Discusses Budget Funding for Public Libraries
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FROM:           Mike Dillon, CLA Lobbyist
                       Christina DiCaro, CLA Lobbyist

 RE:               News From The Capitol


Late last week the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance held a hearing at the State Capitol to review Governor Brown’s proposed funding increase for the California Library Services Act.  You will recall that when the Governor released his January 2016-17 Budget, it included a proposal to add $1.8 million to the baseline for ongoing funding for the California Library Services Act (which would bring the baseline to a total of $3.6 million) and the Governor proposed an additional $3 million in “one time” funding (meant to be used during the 2016-17 fiscal year only) for the CLSA.  The Governor included the $3 million in “one time” funding in order to encourage libraries to use the dollars in creative, innovative methods of “digital delivery,” such as eBooks, digitization, resource sharing models, etc.

At the hearing, the Department of Finance’s representative introduced the Governor’s proposal and said that because the California Library Services Act was introduced in the 1970’s and needs to be updated, the goal of the newly proposed CLSA funding would be to “update and modernize” the way in which materials are shared.  The non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office representative indicated that their office would like to see the proposal for the one-time dollars better defined and said they would also recommend a reporting requirement for the funding.  (The DOF had intentionally crafted the proposal so as to give maximum flexibility to the California Library Services Board to issue the funds without significant strings attached.)  State Librarian Greg Lucas indicated that the California Library Services Board would be convening a meeting on April 8th in Sacramento to discuss proposals for the use of the $3 million in “one time” funds and said “we should have a better sense after that meeting.”   Senator John Moorlach, a member of the Budget Subcommittee asked State Librarian Lucas about the composition of the CLSB and if it was an effective body.  Mr. Lucas responded that the Board was comprised of a good cross-representation of 13 individuals, representing various aspects of library services and community interest. 

Senator Ben Allen, also a member of the Budget Subcommittee said, “I received a letter from Michael F. Dillon and Associates on behalf of the CA Library Association, highlighting their [Budget] ‘ask’ regarding the literacy program.  $1 or $2 million more could bolster the existing baseline for the adult education program to help [learners] in the system.”  State Librarian Lucas said that the subcommittee was supportive last year of $2 million in funding for the literacy program and “800 of 1100 libraries are doing literacy programs.  As Mr. Dillon says in his letter, it is all part of the spectrum (of what libraries do).”   Mr. Lucas added, “With additional funds you can continue to reduce the backlog and increase the baseline, which was zeroed out 6 years ago.”  He emphasized the “extraordinary range of services and activities provided by libraries.”    

CLA lobbyist Mike Dillon testified, and started by thanking the members of the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance for their support for additional library funding in last year’s Budget, as only the Senate side took action in that regard.  Mike then noted that CLA “supports and is appreciative of the new funding the Governor has included for the California Library Services Act in the Budget.”  He added, “With regard to the $3 million in one-time funding, your staff and the LAO have asked for some more specificity on how that money will be spent.  We have a small group working very hard on some language and that should be ready soon.  Our only caution:  don’t be so explicit that we stifle creativity.  Libraries do so much with so little as it is.”  Mike Dillon then stated that CLA’s letter to the committee also encourages the legislature to support $4 million in one-time funds for the purpose of continuing the broadband connection grants as the State Library, CLA, and the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC) move forward into Phase 3.  Mike remarked, “It would be a shame if say we get 60% of the jurisdictions and branches hooked up and then have to tell the others, ‘Sorry, no more money available.’”  Finally, CLA also made an appeal for a modest increase to the baseline, as mentioned, for the state’s literacy program to continue to enhance literacy services for adult learners.

Following Mike Dillon was former State Librarian, and CLA Legislative Committee member, Susan Hildreth, who was representing Califa as the CENIC Administrator.  She highlighted how the average connectivity for libraries participating in the CENIC project has been remarkable, with many libraries experiencing an increase of 21 times their previous speeds.  She noted that Phase 3 is in need of approximately $4 million for connection grants, as not only do jurisdictions need to be connected, but also countless numbers of branches.   Since Ms. Hildreth has also been very active in a group discussing possible uses for the $3 million in one-time CLSA funding, she told the committee that they are working quickly to identify programs that could be presented to the California Library Services Board for their consideration on April 8.  Kim Lewis, lobbyist for CENIC also rose in support of the additional funding for the broadband connection grants, indicating that often, connection costs in some communities can be a barrier to joining a broadband network.  As such, she stated, the connection grant funding for Phase 3 would be “critically important.”

At the conclusion of the hearing, the Subcommittee decided to “hold the items” open, pending more information on the State’s fiscal condition when the Governor releases his May Revision of the Budget on or around May 13.

The Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance will not consider the State Library Budget until May 4th.  Next week, we will send out a document indicating all of the key legislators involved with the Budget hearings, and we will be encouraging you to send letters of support for CLA’s 2016 “Budget ask.”