California has finalized the State budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year. Below are a few highlights that State Senator Lou Correa believes will have the biggest impact here at home.
By: LOU CORREA, State Senator, 34th District
Governor Jerry Brown signed the state budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year at a ceremony in San Diego on June 20. The finalized plan appropriates $156.4 billion and makes significant investments in education, health care, public safety and infrastructure.
The 2014-15 state budget focuses on long-term fiscal stability, with $10.4 billion in debt repayments and $2.1 billion towards a Rainy Day reserve fund. For the first time ever, the budget also includes a long-term plan to begin paying down $74 billion in unfunded liabilities at the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, known as CalSTRS.
Improves Early Education, K-12 Education, and Higher Education
With an eye on California’s future, the budget makes significant investments in education by directing over $76 billion ($45 billion from general fund and $31 billion from special funds) towards kindergarten through 12th grade. In addition, the budget dedicates nearly $5 billion in new education revenues to districts serving English language learners, students from low-income families and foster youth. The budget makes additional investments in pre-school or transitional kindergarten, also referred to as Fair Start.
At full implementation, Fair Start will offer 234,000 low-income 4-year-olds – nearly half of all 4-year-olds in California – access to high-quality pre-kindergarten. Low income 4-year-old children with at least one working parent will also be eligible for a full-day pre-kindergarten program. At least 77,000 are expected to take advantage of the full-day opportunity.
In higher-education the University of California and California State University systems will receive an extra boost of $50 million each if the state receives more money from property taxes than expected, plus $100 million for deferred maintenance projects. It also increases funding for community colleges.
Students who meet Cal Grant eligibility requirements will see a 12 percent increase in their Cal Grant B stipends from $1,473 to $1,648. The budget also reforms the Cal Grant renewal process to allow students who were excluded from the program in one year due to increases in family income to reapply for this program if they become eligible again. The budget also provides $107 million to fund the Middle Class Scholarship and makes adjustments to the eligibility requirements to maximize access to the program.
Finally, the budget directs $250 million in funding for the Career Pathways Trust program, allowing more California students the opportunity to apply classroom academics to specific careers of interest. More than 120 school districts, charter schools, county education offices and community colleges submitted grant applications for last year’s program, with the Department of Education awarding final grants to 39 local and regional school consortia around the state.
Reduces Child Poverty
The budget improves the lives of nearly 1 in 4 California children living in poverty by increasing resources for families in the CalWORKs program, streamlining eligibility requirements to improve access to the CalFresh Program and providing $20 million in funding to reduce homelessness.
Maintains Commitment to Health Care Expansion
The budget includes nearly $1 billion to cover higher-than-expected Medi-Cal enrollment as a result of the Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Improves the Lives of Elderly and Disabled Californians
In order to ensure a broad range of services and options to those in need, the budget restores much of previous cuts to county programs and services and provides $1.8 million to increase rates for Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). The PACE program provide a prudent set of financial incentives to provide health care and support services in the most efficient manner possible for patients who otherwise would likely enter nursing homes.
In addition, an agreement was reached in the budget to makes needed improvements in services for the disabled and aged Californians by funding overtime for home care workers. This agreement is aimed to recruit and retain more to the In-Home Supportive Services workforce who are dedicated to caring for those in need.
Improves Public Safety
This budget supports important public safety programs, such as increased funding for programs to combat human trafficking, jail construction, and court safety. Specifically, the budget provides $40 million for local police, $500 million for sheriffs for jail space and other facilities, and $100 million for efforts to reduce recidivism.
Makes Greater Investments in Housing and Transportation Infrastructure
As California’s economy continues its recovery, the budget includes an infrastructure investment strategy that will be funded by cap-and-trade revenues. These investments include ongoing funding for transit, affordable housing and projects to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The plan also makes significant investments in high speed rails, including high speed rail connectivity to the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center in Anaheim. Such investments will continue to boost job growth and economic development opportunities, while help to meet our mass transportation system and other infrastructure needs.
Increases Funding and Supports for Veterans
The budget also includes $76.2 million in bond funds for the Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Act of 2014 (Proposition 41) passed by voters in June of this year and boost funding support to County Veterans Service Offices and other programs by $3 million.
In an effort to expand services to veterans, their dependents and survivors, the budget also dedicates $5.6 million for County Veteran Service Offices (CVSOs). This additional funding, which I have fought for, will allow CVSOs to reach out to more veterans and assist them in obtaining the benefits they earned by virtue of their service to this country.
While no budget can fully address all the needs of the state, the budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year makes significant investments toward ensuring fiscal stability and expanding opportunity.
Additional details on the 2014-15 budget, including line-item vetoes, can be found at www.ebudget.ca.gov or for a complete summary of all actions taken on previous proposals go to the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review website at: http://sbud.senate.ca.gov/budgetoverviews.