Conference Committee’s Around the Corner – How Have Human Services and Child Care Fared Thus Far?

May 28, 2010

The Legislature’s budget committees tackled the Governor’s budget proposals over the last couple of weeks, setting the stage for the Budget Conference Committee to begin reconciling differences between the Assembly and Senate versions of the 2010-11 budget. Conference committee members and dates have yet to be announced – we will blog about it as soon as we hear. As always, the CBP will closely follow the Conference Committee process as well as negotiations with the Governor and analyze key decisions that emerge as policymakers attempt to close the $17.9 billion budget gap. For now, however, we wanted to briefly highlight how key human service and child care issues have fared in the budget process so far.

Both the Assembly and the Senate budget committees rejected the Governor’s proposals to:

  • Eliminate the CalWORKs Program as well as the Governor’s alternative proposals to reduce CalWORKs grants by 15.7 percent and end CalWORKs eligibility for recent legal immigrants.
  • Eliminate all state funding for child care for low-income working families.
  • Reduce state spending on In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) by $637.1 million in 2010-11 and by $750 million per year thereafter through unspecified cost-containment measures.
  • Reduce SSI/SSP grants for individuals to the minimum allowed by federal law.
  • Eliminate the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI) and the California Food Assistance Program (CFAP).
  • Maintain the $80 million cut to Child Welfare Services that the Governor imposed in 2009-10 using his line-item veto authority. Instead, both committees restored the $80 million in 2010-11.
  • Continue using the Statewide Fingerprint Imaging System (SFIS) in the CalWORKs and Food Stamp programs. Instead, both committees voted to eliminate SFIS as well as the finger-imaging requirements for CalWORKs and food stamp participants.

In contrast, Assembly and Senate budget committee actions differed on the following key issues:

  • IHSS. Both committees expressed intent to reduce state costs for IHSS by as much as $150 million in 2010-11, although the savings targets differed. The Assembly proposed a new provider fee to achieve these savings.
  • Child care. The Assembly rejected the Governor’s proposed policy changes, including reducing the income eligibility limit for child care, reducing payments to child care providers, cutting funding for CalWORKs Stage 3 child care, and recovering “overpayments.” The Senate took different actions in order to send these issues to conference and voted to “consider changes to the family fee structure” for child care assistance.
  • After-school care. The Senate voted to place a measure on the ballot asking Californians to repeal Proposition 49 of 2002 – which requires the state to spend roughly $550 million per year on after-school care – and to allow school districts to use these funds for any educational purpose. The Assembly took no such action.

– Scott Graves

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On the Docket: Tune in Next Week, More Budget Hearings

May 21, 2010

Tune in, stay informed: Budget hearings continue next week.

On Monday, May 24 at 1:30 p.m., or once floor session and/or the Appropriations Committee have tied up business, Senate Budget Subcommittee #3 on Health and Human Services will meet in Room 4203 to take up a number of issues, including a subject we blogged about not long ago: the veto by the Governor last year of child welfare services funding. At the same time, in Room 3191, Senate Budget Subcommittee #1 on Education Finance will take up the Governor’s May Revision proposals for the University of California and California State University systems, as well as child care funding.

Also, on Monday at 11:00 a.m. in Room 4202, the Assembly Budget Committee may vote on California Forward’s proposals to change the budget process, which are contained in ACA 4 and AB 2591. A CBP review of the key provisions is available here.

On Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. in Room 4203, the full Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee will take up the Governor’s May Revision proposals to eliminate state funding for child care assistance, eliminate CalWORKs, and cut state spending on the IHSS Program by $750 million per year through unspecified “cost-containment” measures. For more information about the Governor’s proposed cuts, see our “quick and dirty” summary of the May Revision.

On Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. in Room 4202, Assembly Budget Subcommittee #1 on Health and Human Services will hear a number of May Revision issues and may meet again in the same room on Thursday at 9:00 a.m. to hear any remaining issues before the subcommittee closes down for the year.

– Lisa Gardiner

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On the Docket: Governor’s Budget Proposals and ARRA Spending

March 15, 2010

As promised, we’re combing the Senate and Assembly daily files for hearings that may be of interest to our blog audience. Here are a few within the next week at the State Capitol in Sacramento worth following:

On Wednesday, March 17, a joint hearing of the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment, and Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 4 will examine American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) expenditures for workforce development. In particular, policymakers will examine an apparent lag in the spending of funds allocated to California’s workforce development programs. The hearing will be at 1:30 in Room 437.  For background, see the CBP’s report on what the ARRA has meant for California.

On Thursday at 9:30 in room 4203, the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee No. 3 on Health and Human Services (affectionately known as “Sub 3”) will review the Governor’s proposed cuts to CalWORKs and IHSS, among other topics. For more about the Governor’s budget proposals, see our recent analysis. For more information about the increased demand for public programs such as CalWORKs during these tough economic times, see our report, Proposed Budget Cuts Come at a Time of Growing Need.

Not in Sacramento? You can listen to the hearings through the Assembly or Senate websites and may be able to follow all or some of the hearings on The California Channel.

– Lisa Gardiner

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Looking Back: Our Nominees for the Five Worst Budget and Policy Choices of 2009

December 31, 2009

It is that time of the year when there are “10 best” and “10 worst” lists for everything from movies to politicians, followed quickly by the often much less publicized New Year’s resolutions. Today, we take a look at our nominees for the five worst budget and policy proposals made during 2009.  On Monday, we’ll list our five resolutions for moving California ahead in 2010.

A central principle of our work here at the California Budget Project is that budgets are about values and choices – the choices that we, through our elected representatives – make about how to allocate our collective resources for the common good. Tough budget years – and 2009 will go down in history as one of the toughest ever – make for tough choices. However, several policies stand out in our minds as particularly bad decisions that, in some cases, will make future budget years even tougher. And some will contribute little or nothing toward closing the immediate budget gap, while compromising the well-being of Californians and/or the services they depend on. Our nominees for the five worst are:

  1. The massive corporate tax cuts included in the February budget agreement. The Legislature’s decision to include billions of dollars of tax cuts in the February budget agreement brings to mind all sorts of trite homilies, such as “when you’re in a hole, stop digging.” We don’t think that a spending plan that cut wages for homecare workers (see below) and cut funding for schools, while providing some of the state’s largest and most profitable companies with tax breaks of tens of millions of dollars per year, reflects the values of most Californians. The loss of badly needed revenues will prolong the state’s budget crisis and likely result in even deeper cuts in programs from health care to education.
  2. The recommendations of the Commission on the 21st Century Economy (COTCE). The COTCE proposals would cut taxes for the wealthiest Californians, while increasing taxes for low- to middle-income families and small businesses. They would also place more than half of the state budget in the hands of a risky, untested tax that has been roundly criticized by a number of the nation’s leading tax policy experts. We hope that the Legislature and the Governor will leave the Commission’s report on the shelf and move forward with common-sense proposals that do respond to a 21st century economy, such as collecting sales taxes owed on internet sales, imposing an oil severance tax, and extending the sales tax to selected services.
  3. Eliminating so-called “statutory” cost-of-living adjustments for cash assistance grants, higher education, and other state services. We’ve previously documented the impact of the state’s failure to fund cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for county-administered human services programs. The fact is that a dollar today doesn’t buy what it did a year or more ago. The state has repeatedly suspended COLAs for cash assistance grants and human services programs. Eliminating future COLAs removes the Legislature’s obligation to consider the impact of inflation on the families, seniors, and programs that are affected by “flat funding.” It will, over time, result in a ratcheting down of the standard of living for millions of state residents and cuts to the programs and services, including higher education, that they rely on.
  4. Cutting the wages of In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) workers. The February budget agreement cut the state’s payment toward the wages of some of California’s lowest-paid and hardest-working individuals, the homecare workers who assist the frail elderly and people with disabilities through the IHSS Program. The courts have blocked enactment of the reduction, but the fact that this cut was even contemplated brings us back to our opening comment that budgets are about values and choices. Cutting the pay of low-wage workers runs counter to the values that we believe most Californians hold.
  5. Shortening the time limit for cash assistance through the CalWORKs Program below the federal cap and simultaneously reducing funding for programs aimed at moving families from welfare to work. The July budget agreement limits adults to 48 cumulative months of cash assistance in any 60-month period (adults would be allowed to go back on aid for up to a year after a one year break in assistance). The same agreement reduced funding for employment services aimed at helping individuals overcome barriers to work and gain the skills they need to succeed in the workforce. The 1996 federal welfare act – and the state’s subsequent enactment of the CalWORKs program – limited cash assistance. It also understood that many families would need help to move from welfare to work and that providing that help was a good investment for the long term. Changes to the state’s time limits provide no savings in the short run to help balance the budget, but represent a step backward for thousands of the state’s most vulnerable families.

Narrowing down the list to five was tough. Runners-up include funding cuts for the University of California and California State University systems that resulted in enrollment caps at a time when California needs more, not fewer, college educated workers; deep cuts to foster care and child welfare programs that are already under added pressures as a weak economy increases stress on fragile families; diverting funds from public transit at a time when the need to address climate change and congestion will require more, not less, resources; and the deep cuts to California’s public schools at a time when demographic and economic challenges are placing more challenges than ever on the state’s classrooms.

We’re hoping 2010 ushers in some better policy and budget choices. Best wishes to all our supporters and readers for a happy new year.

– Jean Ross

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SSI/SSP and IHSS Programs Face More Budget Fallout

November 2, 2009

Yesterday, grants for low-income seniors and people with disabilities were cut for the third time this year as part of the state’s effort to close the massive budget gap that consumed policymakers for much of 2009. The maximum monthly Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP) grant for couples dropped from $1,489 in October to $1,407 (5.5 percent), while the maximum grant for individuals fell from $850 to $845 (0.6 percent).

Combined with previous cuts that took effect on May 1 and July 1, the maximum SSI/SSP grant for couples has fallen by a total of $172 per month this year, and the maximum grant for individuals has declined by $62 per month. The grant for couples is now at the minimum level required by federal law. California cannot cut that grant any further without triggering a stunning penalty – the loss of all federal funding for the Medi-Cal Program. However, the grant for individuals is about $15 above the federal minimum, which could make it a target of future state budget-cutting efforts.

Many of the state’s more than 1.1 million SSI/SSP recipients also receive in-home care through the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Program. IHSS recipients got a measure of good news earlier last month when a federal judge blocked the state from implementing service reductions that were included in the July 2009 budget agreement. Those cuts were scheduled to take effect November 1 and would have affected more than 130,000 IHSS recipients.

But those weren’t the only IHSS changes included in the July budget agreement. A number of new requirements for in-home care providers were due to take effect yesterday, including new provider enrollment forms, fingerprinting and criminal background checks, and orientation and training. However, county officials testified at a legislative hearing last week that they would not be able to meet that deadline because of the state’s failure to finalize needed instructions, problems with state instructions that had been issued, and other implementation issues. The Assembly Budget Committee may hold a follow-up hearing to sort through more of the details this week, and legislation could be introduced to address the situation.

– Scott Graves

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