August 13, 2012
A new CBP analysis examines deep cuts that Congress is considering making to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). Known as CalFresh in California, this program provides food assistance to nearly 4 million low-income individuals across the state, over three-fifths of them children. The need for food assistance has increased due to the Great Recession and its aftermath. Since mid-2007, when the economic downturn started in California, CalFresh enrollment has risen steadily and nearly doubled.
As part of the reauthorization of the federal Farm Bill, the US House of Representatives is considering slashing SNAP funding by more than $16 billion over the next 10 years, largely by eliminating the flexibility that states have to broaden SNAP eligibility to more low-income working families. This change would end SNAP food assistance for roughly 2 million to 3 million low-income individuals in 40 states, including California.
The cuts under consideration in the House would jeopardize improvements that California has made – or is considering making – to CalFresh. For instance: as we’ve blogged before, a bill now in the Legislature – AB 1560 – would bring more low-income individuals into CalFresh by both simplifying eligibility rules and creating a direct link between CalFresh and the Medi-Cal Program. The proposed House cuts to SNAP would prohibit this effort to expand access to CalFresh and would reduce nutrition assistance at the worst possible time: with many families still struggling in the wake of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
– Steven Bliss
June 28, 2011
At a late afternoon press conference, Governor Brown, Senate President pro Tem Steinberg, and Assembly Speaker Perez announced agreement on a 2011-12 spending plan that the Legislature will vote on later this afternoon (June 28). The budget agreement is a ”majority vote” spending plan that is balanced with deep cuts, higher than previously forecast revenues, measures that boost tax compliance that can be adopted by majority vote, fee increases, and other “solutions.” Details are slowly trickling out in press reports and in other documents, although there are conflicting reports with respect to some proposals and estimates. We do know that the spending plan largely adopts the spending reductions assumed in March with changes proposed as part of the vetoed June 15 budget with the following exceptions:
- The proposed sale of state buildings has been dropped;
- The proposal to “unwind the triple flip” resulting in a ¼ cent sales tax rate increase has been dropped;
- The proposed extension of a 0.15 percent Vehicle License Fee rate dedicated to public safety programs has been dropped.
- The assumption that the state will receive additional federal Medicaid dollars has been dropped; and
- The assumption that the state will benefit from a $1 billion “sweep” of Proposition 10 (First 5) commission funds has been dropped.
The new agreement includes:
- An assumption that revenues will be $4 billion higher than the level forecast in the Governor’s May Revision;
- A set of “trigger reductions” that will occur if revenues do not increase by at least $3 billion above previously forecast levels; and
- Additional cuts to court construction and savings in the proposed realignment of public safety and other services to counties.
As outlined in various documents, 54 percent of the proposed “solutions” included in today’s budget agreement –reflecting spending reductions made in March and changes that will be voted on today – come from spending reductions, with the remainder coming from higher revenues and other changes. Based on the best information available, a list of bills containing the proposed agreement is available here. The best explanation of the proposed trigger reductions that we’ve seen is available here as reported by Kevin Yamamura of the Sacramento Bee. The Assembly will consider the budget agreement at 4:00 p.m. As this post goes to print, the Senate Floor Session is Upon Call of the President pro Tempore. Both sessions will be webcast on CalChannel. The CBP will release an analysis of the final spending plan once details are publicly available.
– Jean Ross
June 22, 2011
In recent weeks, we’ve released a series of fact sheets documenting the deep cuts that have been made to a range of state services in the wake of the Great Recession, which caused a steep and sudden drop-off in state tax revenues and opened up a cavernous hole in the state budget. Those fact sheets were prompted, in part, by public opinion research showing that many Californians aren’t aware of the depth of recent cuts. An April 2011 USC/Los Angeles Times poll, for example, found that nearly half (48 percent) of Californians think the state budget has gotten larger in recent years. In fact, the opposite is true – the Legislature reduced General Fund spending from $103.0 billion in 2007-08 to $87.3 billion in 2009-10, and state spending is estimated to remain below $90 billion in 2011-12 under the budget passed by the Legislature last week.
In order to further underscore the depth and breadth of recent cuts, California Budget Bites will highlight several reductions that take effect in 2011-12 as we count down to the July 1 start of the new fiscal year. Today we’ll focus on the CalWORKs welfare-to-work program, which provides cash assistance, employment services, and child care for 1.5 million low-income Californians, more than three-quarters (76.8 percent) of whom are children. In actions taken in March and subsequently revised last week, the Legislature reduced CalWORKs funding by nearly $940 million in 2011-12, a cut of approximately 16 percent compared to typical annual funding. For example, the Legislature:
- Cut CalWORKs cash assistance by 8 percent. The Legislature reduced the maximum monthly grant for a family of three in high-cost counties – where more than half (55.4 percent) of CalWORKs families live – from $694 to $638, approximately the same amount that the state provided in 1987, without adjusting for inflation. As a result of this cut, which comes on top of a 4 percent reduction implemented in 2009, 590,000 low-income families will have a harder time keeping a roof over their heads and making ends meet in a tough economy.
- Reduced the earnings limit for CalWORKs below the federal poverty line. Many CalWORKs parents work in low-wage jobs and rely on cash assistance to supplement their modest incomes and help provide for their children. By cutting maximum grants and making a related change to how families’ earnings are counted, the Legislature has significantly reduced the amount of earnings a family can have and still remain eligible for CalWORKs. In June 2008 – the end of the 2007-08 fiscal year – a family of three in a high-cost county could earn up to $1,651 per month (112.6 percent of the federal poverty line) and continue to receive a small grant. Beginning July 1, the limit will be reduced to $1,369 per month (88.7 percent of the poverty line). As a result, working families will lose CalWORKs cash assistance at a significantly lower income compared to prior years – and well before their income reaches the poverty line.
- Rolled back the CalWORKs time limit for adults. Lawmakers reduced the lifetime limit on CalWORKs cash assistance for adults from five years to four years. This change is retroactive and will apply, effective August 1, to adults who have received cash assistance for at least 48 months. The Department of Social Services estimates that 22,500 adults will hit the new 48-month time limit in 2011-12 and lose an average of $122 per month, further reducing their families’ incomes.
- Reduced funding for CalWORKs employment services and child care. Counties provide a range of services to help parents move from welfare to work, including job training, job search assistance, and child care. The Legislature reduced funding for these services by $377 million in 2011-12 – equivalent to the cuts implemented in 2009-10 and 2010-11. Roughly 12,600 CalWORKs families could lose “Stage 1” child care in 2011-12 as a result of this cut.
In short, the Legislature has made deep and unprecedented cuts to CalWORKs in order to help close the state’s budget shortfall. These reductions have left the program ill-equipped to cope with the ongoing impact of the Great Recession and the challenges of rising inequality and a growing population. California’s remaining $9.6 billion budget gap should be closed not with more cuts, but with a balanced approach that includes additional revenues in order to preserve the public structures essential to California’s prosperity.
– Scott Graves
May 13, 2011
Yesterday, the Assembly Republican Caucus released the outlines of a plan aimed at bringing the budget into balance without additional tax revenues. This proposal immediately brought to mind a graph we released based on Department of Finance data showing the large share of recent years’ budget “solutions” that were either short-term or illusory in nature. While the lack of line-item detail makes in-depth analysis impossible, it is clear that major components of the Republican plan rely on “smoke and mirrors” and other gimmicks to claim that it is possible to balance the budget without additional revenues or deep cuts to education. Examples of some of the questionable assumptions include:
- A $1.1 billion cut to state employee costs, without commensurate reductions to prison or higher education spending. As we’ve written before, six out of 10 state workers are employed in education or public safety. Thus, it is virtually mathematically impossible to reduce state employee compensation by an amount equivalent to a 10 percent across-the-board reduction without making deep cuts in both higher education and public safety. Layer on top of this an assumed $600 million in savings from unallocated “operating expenses and equipment reduction” and you have the recipe for a sizeable shortfall in next year’s budget.
- $700 million in savings from “competition” – using private vendors in place of public workers. There’s no hard evidence to suggest that savings of that magnitude could be achieved and even less to suggest that savings would occur during the upcoming budget year. In fact, creating statewide eligibility system for public programs could increase total costs and diminish access to critical assistance by duplicating work currently done at the county level.
- Delaying $500 million in debt repayment into the future. This proposal simply shifts costs into future years when, absent multi-year revenues, forecasts suggests that the state will still face significant budget shortfalls.
- An apparent double count of some savings already scored in the March budget agreement. Documents released yesterday appear to suggest that the Republicans are scoring some savings already taken into account in the March budget plan. Additional information is needed to determine whether this is in fact correct.
The plan includes a sizeable cut to funds for schools serving California’s poorest students by zeroing out funding for the Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA), a targeted cut of $450 million to classrooms already hard hit by recent years’ budget cuts. Perhaps most significantly, the Republican plan would prolong California’s budget crisis by providing at best a patchwork, one-year approach to a multi-year problem that threatens the state’s ability to rebuild core public institutions, plan for the future, and prepare for the challenges of an ever-more-competitive global economy. It’s time for a balanced approach, based on sound estimates and realistic, achievable assumptions, that puts California’s future first.
– Jean Ross
May 12, 2011
How have recent budget cuts impacted schools? Talk to a student, teacher, or principal and you will get an earful. Indeed, state spending on K-12 education was cut by more than $1,000 per student (13.1 percent) between 2007-08 and 2010-11. California has also reduced spending on educational data systems, limiting access to information on the programmatic impact of cuts. The lack of data led some organizations to survey school officials, and the results were grim.
A Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) survey conducted last fall found that recent cuts led to significant impacts on school programs. For example, the LAO survey found that:
- More than half (58 percent) of responding school districts cut their number of instructional days in 2010-11 compared to 2008-09, and 30 percent shortened their school year by a week;
- Nearly half (48 percent) of schools discontinued their high school class size reduction programs; and
- More than one-fourth (26 percent) discontinued programs supported by arts and music grants.
Findings from a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) survey conducted last summer highlighted the effects of state budget cuts in high schools. The UCLA survey of high school principals found that:
- Nearly three-fourths (74 percent) of respondents increased class sizes;
- Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) reduced or eliminated summer school; and
- One-half (50 percent) reported fewer counselors, in a state that already has nearly the most students per counselor in the nation.
While federal dollars provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act helped schools mitigate cuts, the vast majority of those dollars will be gone by the end of this school year. As a result, many schools are on the edge of a funding cliff. That’s why school superintendents at a recent Senate Budget Committee hearing called the prospect of an “all-cuts” budget unthinkable.
What would an “all-cuts” budget mean for California’s schools? Budget Bites readers can find a great tool produced using a CBP analysis that allows users to point to a map and see what an “all-cuts” budget would mean for their school district’s funding. The tool, developed by Parents for Great Education, demonstrates that parents understand how an “all-cuts” budget would have devastating consequences and the need for a balanced approach to solving the state’s budget woes.
– Jonathan Kaplan