Budget Complexities

The Legislature just passed a budget for Fiscal Year 2021-22, and the Governor has until June 30th to sign it into law. Revisions are likely, and a series of “trailer bills” to fund specific programs will be considered over the coming months. More than $267 billion will be spent, including $195.5 billion from the General Fund.

Positively, the budget increases funding for Special Education, including individuals with disabilities. More money for childcare will expand access and increasing rates for providers will help attract and retain workers. Funding for Universal Transitional Kindergarten will ultimately establish TK for all 4-year-olds. The Department of Developmental Services providers will receive fairer compensation so families continue to have access to care. Training for healthcare workers will increase, including for In-Home Supportive Service workers. Bond funds for flood management and groundwater sustainability will be allocated, the state’s special districts will receive additional funding, programs for homeless veterans will receive increased funding.

On the downside, despite our current huge budget surplus, tax increases that addressed last year’s (temporary) deficit will remain. $7.8 billion taken from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to pay down the deficit, will not be restored. Employers, facing an estimated $24 billion in unemployment debt resulting from government-mandated shutdowns, will receive no help. Medi-Cal is being expanded to undocumented adults over 50, despite struggles to serve over 14 million current low-income beneficiaries. The budget fails to include funding for fire prevention and forest health projects. Billions are provided for homelessness programs without reforms to improve outcomes. The budget provides no additional rent relief, despite billions provided by the federal government for landlords and tenants.

Prioritizing spending of taxpayer dollars is a sacred responsibility. This budget, passed by a partisan majority, is a mixed bag. We should do better.