Legislature Passes Budget Bill
June 18, 2020
On Monday, the Legislature discharged its constitutional duty to pass a budget, although legislative leaders have openly acknowledged that the Budget Bill they passed, SB 74, does not represent a deal with Governor Newsom and does not signify the end of negotiations. They also passed other bills necessary for providing current-year funding to schools and victim restitution, as well as AB 85, which makes several changes to state taxes that would raise about $4 billion.
The major differences that remain total billions of dollars and include whether to make deeper cuts or rely more on deferrals and borrowing, how much school funding to provide, and how to structure trigger cuts related to a possible federal aid package. The size of the unresolved issues makes it hard to predict a final outcome on items important to counties, even where the Governor and Legislature seem to be in agreement.
Most importantly, county officials should continue to call, text, and meet with the legislative delegations to push for a backfill for the safety net and other services funded through 1991 and 2011 realignments, while also thanking Legislators for including funding for the November election and passing along federal coronavirus aid to counties.
Preserving the Safety Net by Backfilling Realignment
The Legislature’s budget package includes $1 billion for the Realignment backfill of safety-net services counties provide on behalf of the state in 2020-21. Of the $1 billion total, $600 million is subject to the Legislature’s version of the federal trigger, meaning that it would be pulled back on October 1 if sufficient federal COVID-19 relief funding has not been received by September 1. These public health, behavioral health, social services, and public safety services are facing extreme cuts as counties grapple with the pressure of increased service demands and declining revenues.
Counties appreciate the recognition by the Legislature of the vital need to provide additional funding above the May Revision in order to protect California’s safety-net system that is almost entirely delivered by counties. CSAC will continue to advocate for the funding to be utilized for both 1991 Realignment and 2011 Realignment so that it can help protect the full range of services that counties provide on behalf of the state.
This safety-net funding is the top budget priority for CSAC, county affiliates, and counties. CSAC’s advocacy efforts included spearheading a county coalition letter, hosting a series of remote meetings between CSAC Board Members and Budget Committee Members, multiple county action alerts, and direct communication with Administration and Legislative leaders.
Today, CSAC held a video press conference to urge that this safety net funding remain in the final budget agreement between the Governor and the Legislature. The press conference featured Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, CSAC First Vice President and Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore, CSAC Executive Director Graham Knaus, and county human services, behavioral health, and public health officials from across the California.
It is critical that counties continue to call and text legislators and the Governor’s Administration with this message: Preserving the state safety net means preserving our communities. There is no economic recovery without a strong safety net, and we support the Legislature’s proposal to provide $1 billion for safety net services.
The Budget Bill passed today includes just over $100 million for the increased costs of the November election. The Governor has signed two executive orders, one of which requires counties to mail ballots to all active registered voters and the other of which allows counties to establish fewer in-person polling places, but only if they have those locations open for three days of early voting, along with other requirements to increase access.
While the second of those orders is the subject of an injunction related to executive authority, two legislative measures, AB 860 and SB 423, are moving quickly through the Legislature and would largely duplicate those requirements.
The increased cost of these requirements is estimated at about $130 million, so the funding in the budget should go a long way toward meeting the need. It marks the first time the state has provided funding for election operations in about a decade, though they have provided much-needed funds in recent years to replace voting equipment.
Coronavirus Relief Funds
The budget includes $1.289 billion in funding for counties to help pay for the costs of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, including both the direct costs of confronting the health effects and the second-level economic effects. The funds were provided by Congress in the CARES Act and must be utilized in compliance with US Department of Treasury guidance. Both the Governor’s May Revision and the legislative package propose passing these funds along to counties, along with either $450 million (Governor) or $500 million (Legislature) for cities. The funds will be distributed per capita, though taking into account that counties and cities with a population greater than 500,000 received direct allocations from the federal government.
The Legislature and the Governor will continue to negotiate,
though their timeline is unclear. The next deadline is the
beginning of the fiscal year on July 1, which hasn’t been missed
since California voters gave the Legislature authority to pass a
budget with a majority vote. In the meantime, counties should
keep up the pressure for the Legislature to backfill realignment
so that counties can avoid drastic cuts to the safety net, public
health, heath care, social services, and public safety services
funded through realignment.