CSAC Wraps Up Legislative Conference
The CSAC Legislative Conference was a huge success this week, punctuated with pertinent policy discussions and workshops touching on issues as diverse as homelessness, water, broadband access, public safety and transportation. CSAC and the Fix Our Roads Coalition also held a major press conference and rally on the steps of the State Capitol to announce a new plan to fund road repairs and maintenance.
You can read more about the about the Roadmap to Consensus rally and press conference here. And for specific information from each of our Policy Committee Meetings Please click on the following links: Administration of Justice, Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources; Government Finance and Administration; Health and Human Services; Housing, Land Use and Transportation.
“This was another great conference and I can’t thank my staff enough for their hard work and thoughtful dedication in pulling it all together,” said Executive Director Matt Cate. “I think the county people who attended have a much better understanding of how the state budget is going to play out this year, and the effect that can have on counties.”
The conference opened with a panel discussion with several leading lawmakers from both houses and both sides of the aisle discussing the state budget, just a few days after the Governor announced his May Revision. The most recent revenue projections are somewhat lower than the January forecast, and the panel generally agreed that California’s revenue stream is volatile.
That sentiment was echoed by Governor Brown’s Finance Director, Michael Cohen, who gave an update to the CSAC Board meeting on Thursday. Cohen says with April revenue dropping significantly from projections, the Governor is determined to hold the line on any new long-term spending. The Revised budget proposal does not include any cuts to county programs. It actually includes a modest one-time increase in funding to help remove more of the 29 million dead trees that have been killed by drought and bark beetles.
“I’m really pleased to see the Governor is keeping the tree mortality issue as a top priority,” said Cate. “The loss of so much of our forests is having an immediate and drastic impact on the counties where it’s happening, and it also has implications for the whole state in terms of air and water quality and the threat of wildfires. A lot can happen between now and the June 15 budget deadline, but we’ll do everything we can to make sure the money earmarked for this issue and for all the various county programs remains intact.”
Yolo County Supervisor Oscar Villegas lead a workshop and panel discussion on Homelessness. He has been a leading advocate of local government partnerships to address this issue, and one thing that was clear from the discussion is that no one entity can fix homelessness. The panelists emphasized the need for cities, counties, the state and federal governments to work together to provide individualized wrap-around services that not only provide homes, but also medical and mental health treatment, counseling, education and job training.
Solano County Supervisor Erin Hannigan also led a panel discussion focused on the many ballot initiatives circulating for possible inclusion in November. As many as 18 measures could be on the ballot and it’s already evident that the wide range of proposed policy changes, including public safety, taxes, and recreational marijuana legalization, could have significant impacts on counties.
John Myers, The LA Times Capitol Bureau Chief and one of the leading political journalists in Sacramento was our luncheon speaker on the first day of the conference. He also spoke about the Governor’s prudence on the budget and opined that out of the $170 billion the state will spend next fiscal year only about $3.5 billion is really up for discussion in the budget negotiations, because the rest must be spent on mandated programs or debt service.
He also said that the balance of power right now rests with the Governor, because of his years of experience compared to many members of the Legislature who are new. According to Myers, that will change in a couple of years When Governor Brown is termed out. Not only will there be a new governor in 2019, but with the new 12-year term limits for both houses of the Legislature, there is somewhat less turn-over than there used to be.