Budget Subcommittee Spotlight: 3/23/23

Subcommittee #1 (Education)
Laird (D-Santa Cruz) Chair, Ochoa Bogh (R-Yucaipa), Min (D-Irvine) & Smallwood-Cuevas (D-Los Angeles)

Ensuring Adequate Special Education Services for Students. The budget subcommittee discussed the Governor’s proposals for special education, particularly changes impacting Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPAs). The proposed changes would require posting of all SELPA local plans on the state department’s website, extend the moratorium on the creation of a new single-district SELPA by two years, and require SELPAs to provide the same total amount of funding to their member schools in 2023-24 as they did in the 2022-23 fiscal year, as adjusted for inflation. Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R-Yucaipa) voiced concerns regarding accountability for the level of special education funding used for administration, and she expressed support for ensuring that funds go directly to help students in need of special education services.

Subcommittee #2 (Resources, Environmental Protection, and Energy)
Becker (D-Menlo Park) Chair, Dahle (R-Bieber), McGuire (D-Healdsburg)

Governor’s New Electricity Proposals May Increase Rates. The subcommittee discussed major policy change proposals related to electricity reliability and procurement. The Governor proposes that the Department of Water Resources would enter into long-term contracts to purchase electricity for future years on behalf of all electricity providers in California. The Governor argues electricity providers may be challenged to purchase large amounts of clean energy resources, like off-shore wind and geothermal. The Governor also proposes a new penalty on any electricity provider that fails to meet purchase requirements at the time California’s Electricity Supply Strategic Reliability Reserve is used. Senator Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) expressed concern regarding the impact of these new policies on electricity rates. Senator Dahle remarked, “I’m deeply concerned about these policies raising rates. The cost of food, gasoline, natural gas, electricity, and other goods is already rising. People can’t afford it.” The subcommittee will vote on these issues at a future hearing.

Subcommittee #3 (Health and Human Services)
Menjivar (D-San Fernando Valley) Chair, Grove (R-Bakersfield), Eggman (D-Stockton), & Roth (D-Riverside)

Protecting Services for the Developmentally Disabled. Despite a projected $22 billion General Fund budget deficit, the subcommittee emphasized that many of the recent investments made to improve and enhance services for the developmentally disabled will be protected by the Legislature. This includes the ramp-up of increased service provider rates, the restoration of social recreation and camp services, and the coordination of family support services. The subcommittee also discussed further potential enhancements to connect disabled adults to independent living services and to reduce the caseload ratios of regional center case managers. Senate Republicans have long advocated for providing sufficient funds to ensure high-quality community services for developmentally disabled Californians. The subcommittee will continue to prioritize this population as budget discussions continue.

Subcommittee #4 (State Administration and General Government)
Padilla (D-San Diego) Chair, Niello (R-Fair Oaks), & Caballero (D-Merced)

Governor Prioritizes CA.GOV Web Portal Over Small Business. The subcommittee discussed a variety of proposals for state administration, such as the Governor’s request for General Fund resources to “re imagine” the CA.gov web portal. While the amounts in question are individually small, prioritizing issues such as the digital face of the state stands in contrast to the Governor’s disregard for the fiscal heath of California businesses. Though not discussed at the hearing, the Governor also proposes to withdraw a $750 million payment to reduce the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Fund debt, which was already an insufficient measure of relief toward paying down the astonishing debt balance of $18 billion. The UI taxes will increase by $21 per employee in 2023, and the budget request will result in even higher taxes for California businesses in the future, so reducing that debt should be prioritized over minor state administration issues.

Subcommittee #5 (Corrections, Public Safety, Judiciary, Labor, and Transportation)
Durazo (D-Los Angeles) Chair, Seyarto (R-Murrieta), & Newman (D-Fullerton)

L.A. Juvenile Probation Woes Highlight Realignment Problems. The subcommittee discussed adjustments to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s budget to reflect the looming June 30, 2023 realignment of remaining serious and violent juvenile offenders from state facilities to county probation departments. Senator Kelly Seyarto (R-Murrieta) asserted that counties are not ready for the transition. He pointed to a March 12, 2023 L.A. Times editorial excoriating the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Probation Department for their joint failure addressing longstanding issues threatening the safety, morale, and health of the youth and staff at the County’s juvenile facilities and camps.  The appalling conditions at the largest probation services agency in the nation are a canary in the coal mine with respect to the impending juvenile criminal justice realignment. The subcommittee will vote on the issue at a later hearing.