Senator John Laird's Statement on 2021 Budget
The proposed budget builds on priorities put forward in Senate’s “Build Back Boldly” plan and the Assembly’s “A Budget of Opportunity” blueprint. This budget package authorizes General Fund expenditures of $195.5 billion, and assumes $201.9 billion in total General Fund resources, representing a historic investment in the lives of all Californians.
We have prioritized sending over $11 billion to California families and business struggling with the negative economic conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, while also putting $25.5 billion in our reserve accounts. This budget infuses significant investments into the human and physical capital of this state, and combines sound fiscal policy to better prepare ourselves for any future economic downturns.
For all California students and families, food is fundamental to all else – it fuels learning for our children, strengthens our older adults, improves all of our health, and builds community. This budget provides close to $300 million in one-time to help food banks address the overwhelming need brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting food banks’ continued assistance of our most vulnerable during these challenging times.
The University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) has not received stable increases in support for decades, resulting in a decrease of funding and vacancies across the program. UC ANR connects critical UC research in agriculture and natural resources with local communities, and is a proven bridge between local issues and innovative answers. The budget will now provide over $30 million in ongoing funds to continue this critical research.
As a proud Member of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, I was delighted to see state funding for the preservation and public accessibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer historical archives across the state of California. In fact, all of our Caucus budget priorities are reflected in the budget – highlighting California’s commitment to equality and inclusivity.
Yet the once-in-a-century pandemic has made clear what we have all known for decades - inequity in our educational system must be addressed to provide all California students with the resources and support they need to succeed – whether at the preschool level or with financial aid for higher education. This budget moves the state ahead on education issues in a once-in-a-generation way.
This budget will expand access, by creating a Universal Transition Kindergarten program to all children in California, not just to those who can afford it. The creation of this program will provide early nurturing opportunities to all children in California. Strengthening our child-care system by implementing rate reform and adding over 200,000 slots will expand access to families – especially to our most vulnerable, low-income households.
The reform of financial assistance for higher education could add hundreds of thousands of Californians to the pursuit of higher education – with the goal of moving toward a debt free college experience.
Coupled with a K-12 budget that adds a cost-of-living increase above pre-pandemic budget levels – and pays off the deferrals for K-12 school districts – this budget is one of the best for public education in modern times.
As we head into the remainder of this legislative session, I look forward to working with the Administration to finalize this budget proposal. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are indeed building back a better future for all Californians.