Budget Subcommittee Spotlight: 4/27/23

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

Supporting Affordable Housing for College Students. The subcommittee discussed proposals for the University of California’s budget, including enrollment growth and student housing. Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R-Yucaipa) reaffirmed her support for constructing student housing as part of the effort to ease one of the many high costs of education. Senator Ochoa Bogh is concerned about the Governor’s proposal to delay $250 million previously budgeted to build student housing. Students’ ability to find affordable housing would be negatively affected by such a delay, while pushing forward with construction would improve the availability of housing overall in a state that struggles with an extraordinarily high cost of living. The subcommittee will vote on housing and other University of California budget issues at a future hearing.

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

This subcommittee did not meet.

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

Increasing Security to Combat Benefit Theft. The subcommittee discussed the Governor’s proposal to provide the Department of Social Services with $50 million to begin modernizing electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card security and reduce benefit theft using chip and tap technologies. Benefit theft began increasing in October 2021 and has risen to 1.7 percent of EBT benefits distributed in 2022-23, up from less than one percent in 2019-20. This pattern of theft is projected to cost the state $121 million in 2023-24. The increase in EBT theft is a growing national issue, and EBT cards are especially vulnerable due to their lack of chip technology, making it easier for thieves to steal information with skimming devices. Full implementation will take 30 months at a total cost of $76.5 million, putting California on track to be the first in the nation to offer chip and tap technology to EBT recipients.  It is essential to adequately protect EBT recipients from this continued financial attack on vulnerable populations. The subcommittee will vote on this proposal at a later time.  

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

State Continues to Shortchange Local Governments by Nearly $1 Billion. Each year, the Governor and Legislature have the opportunity to either fund or suspend state-enacted mandates, which cost local governments millions of dollars annually. Unfortunately, when the state had tens of billions in surplus revenue, the Governor and legislative Democrats failed to pay off the nearly $1 billion in outstanding mandate debt, missing an opportunity to provide fiscal relief to local governments for state-mandated activities. At this week’s hearing, the subcommittee voted to approve $100 million General Fund to repay local agencies for costs related to the Sexual Assault Evidence Kits Testing mandate and the Racial and Identity Profiling mandate. This is a step in the right direction, though the state’s failure to pay off the remaining mandates leaves local agencies with less funding for critical programs and services.

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

Costly Bureaucracy Creates Excessive Fees. The subcommittee discussed the Governor’s proposal to loan $8.6 million to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) ammunition background check program until fee revenues are able to sustain it. The proposal would also authorize DOJ to administratively increase the ammunition transaction fee as needed in the future. Currently, DOJ’s annual costs to regulate ammunition sales are more than triple the fee revenues. To cover ongoing costs, repay the $8.6 million loan (within 10 years), and repay a previous $25 million startup loan, the fee would need to increase by 600 percent. For certain calibers and quantities of ammunition, the fee could easily be more than the cost of the product. DOJ needs to drastically reduce its costs instead of burdening law-abiding citizens with excessive fees. The subcommittee will vote on the proposal at a later date.