New state budget a good step forward

June 25, 2016

On June 15 the Legislature passed a $122 billion budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year, building on six years of responsible state spending and fiscal management. The spending plan invests in public education, focuses on significant issues such as poverty, housing and child care, and continues to add reserves to the state’s rainy day fund.

This year, education remains one of the state’s top spending priorities. With per-pupil spending increasing by more than $3,600 over the past five years, the 2016-2017 California Budget allocates record funding levels to K-12 schools. The “College Readiness” program directs $200 million to programs in K-12 schools and universities to help students enroll and complete college, and the budget funds major enrollment increases at UC and CSU, adding 7,000 new slots for in-state students.

While the state has seen strong economic growth, the recovery has failed to reach all Californians and new steps are being taken to help break the cycle of poverty. The unjust cap that the CalWORKS Maximum Family Grant Rule placed on aid to the most vulnerable in our state has been repealed and 130,000 children in 95,000 families will receive help because of this rule change.

Chronic homelessness affects both rural and urban areas, and the Senate’s bipartisan “No Place Like Home” initiative will help to combat this problem. A $2 billion bond to acquire permanent supportive housing for homeless who are mentally ill and $45 million in temporary housing and emergency shelter for the homeless are in the budget. Additionally, the Legislature and the governor are looking to obtain additional federal dollars by providing $45 million for outreach to homeless and poor families.

Continuing to protect the fiscal health of our state is necessary and the budget builds this year’s surplus responsibly. The 2016-17 budget dedicates nearly $3 billion to paying off debt and $6 billion to the rainy day fund.

Though we have made progress, much remains to be done to help prepare our state for future economic uncertainties and invest in the people of California. However, the 2016-17 state budget represents another step forward to make California golden again.

*Published by the Santa Cruz Sentinel on 6/25/16