In summary

Revised budget includes big cuts to education, health care. School districts to make own decisions on reopening. CSU student fees scrutinized by auditor.

Good morning, California. It’s Friday, May 15.

Newsom unveils revised budget proposal

Gov. Newsom discusses his revised state budget proposal Thursday. Photo by Rich Pedroncelli, AP Photo/Pool

If California doesn’t get more federal aid, billions of dollars will be cut from K-12 schools and community colleges, the University of California and Cal State University systems will face 10% cuts, and some Medi-Cal and welfare benefits will be rolled back, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday when he sent a revised budget proposal to the Legislature.

The governor’s $203 billion plan eliminates almost all of the ambitious proposals in his $222 billion January budget, including an expansion of the state’s health care program to undocumented seniors and wide-ranging environmental initiatives. And with a budget deficit he estimated at $54 billion, they don’t seem likely to return anytime soon.  

  • Newsom: “We’re looking at a multi-year strategy to work through this budget deficit. … No matter what we do this year, it won’t be enough to address the shortfall this year.”

Even programs Newsom seemed most committed to weren’t immune from cuts. He proposed increasing the budget for the state’s Health and Human Services Agency by about $7 billion, but some optional Medi-Cal benefits that were just reinstated after the Great Recession, like full dental care, were back on the chopping block.

The governor said he wouldn’t roll back tax credits for working families or recently expanded grants for CalWORKS, the state’s welfare-to-work program. But some of the employment and child care services will be cut, even as more people participate. 

Newsom emphasized that though his proposal calls for the state to fill 26% of the budget hole with program cuts, they are “cuts with a caveat.” 

  • Newsom: “The president of the United States, with the stroke of a pen, could provide support for Speaker Pelosi’s new HEROES Act, and these cuts would be eliminated.” 

The $3 trillion HEROES Act would provide nearly $1 trillion in direct funding to state and local governments, but has faced pushback from the Republican-controlled Senate. 

Legislators will now debate Newsom’s budget proposal, with a June 15 deadline to adopt a plan.

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The Bottom Line: As of 9 p.m. Thursday night, California had 74,870 confirmed coronavirus cases and 3,052 deaths from the virus, according to a Los Angeles Times tracker. (These numbers are different from those of the state Department of Public Health, which are updated less often.)

Also: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. And we’re tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

Other stories you should know

1. CA school districts to decide reopening date for themselves

Sanfoka Academy in Oakland announces a district-wide school closure until April 6. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

California’s school districts will decide for themselves when to reopen for the fall semester, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said Wednesday. His comments came a few weeks after Newsom indicated schools might open as early as July, taking many local superintendents by surprise. But the state won’t leave districts entirely on their own. Thurmond said the education department is working on reopening guidance based on task force recommendations.

  • Thurmond: “We are not anticipating a common opening across school districts, or a mandate for when districts open. … Opening will happen in a way where we place safety first. We won’t ask any school to open their campus to students if we cannot point to data, and consultation from our health partners and workplace-safety experts.”

2. Cal State increased mandatory student fees without justification, state auditor finds

Students outside of Kennedy Library at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in September 2018. Photo by Hannah Travis via Flickr

The Cal State University system increased mandatory student fees by an average of 52% over the past decade without adequate justification and sometimes in violation of its own policies, a state audit released Thursday found. Some campuses are using the fees for faculty salaries, a practice that auditors suggested the Legislature ban, CalMatters’ Felicia Mello, Kimberly Morales and Stephanie Zappelli report.

The student fees are an important battleground during COVID-19: Campuses need to make up for lost revenue from state government — Newsom proposed a 10% cut to the CSU system Thursday — but fees are a hurdle for students struggling with unemployment and other financial pressures. CSU also announced Tuesday it plans to conduct most of its fall 2020 semester online, leading some students to argue they shouldn’t have to pay fees at all.

  • Julia Favilla, a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student: “If I’m not getting to use [the facilities] and I’m having to pay for it out of my savings, which are dwindling because it’s hard to find a job right now, all of those things stack up, and yeah, it does definitely take a financial toll.”

3. Not sure what an outdoor museum is? Look no further

When Newsom announced a few days ago that outdoor museums were eligible to reopen with modifications statewide, I expressed confusion about what exactly an outdoor museum is. But after multiple readers reached out to me about one outdoor museum in particular — the Castle Air Museum near the former Castle Air Force Base in Atwater — I thought it deserved a shoutout.

  • From one reader: It’s “one of the best outdoor museums in the world … dozens of acres filled with dozens of restored aircraft make for a wonderful experience if you have any interest in the history of aviation.”
  • From another: “It’s a really nice place with an excellent collection of artifacts. You don’t have to be a military buff or an airplane fan to enjoy it.”

I’ll have to check it out! If you have any other outdoor museum recommendations, send them my way.

CalMatters virtual events

Tuesday at 1 p.m.: How Nursing Homes Need to Change. CalMatters discusses how nursing homes are handling the coronavirus outbreak with Craig Cornett, CEO of the California Association of Health Facilities, Michael Dark, staff attorney at California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, and Dr. Michael Wasserman, president of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine. Register here and submit your questions here.

CalMatters commentary

Six ways the Legislature can help the economy: California’s private sector cannot be the safety net for the COVID-19 crisis — that’s the role of government, which can alleviate financial pressures on businesses, writes Loren Kaye, president of California Foundation for Commerce and Education.

Temporary fix: California should borrow money to deal with its COVID-19 fiscal problems. Don’t worry — it’s a temporary fix to a temporary problem, argues Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council.

Kids first: We should reopen schools when it’s safe for students, rather than when it’s most convenient for adults, argues Vernon M. Billy, CEO and executive director of the California School Boards Association.

Parks for all: One-third of Californians don’t have access to safe outdoor places. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that Californians want — and need — more parks, writes Guillermo Rodriguez, California state director for The Trust for Public Land.

Other things worth your time

Fremont police inspected Tesla after it reopened against county rules. They found it wasn’t yet fully operational. // Bloomberg

California community colleges sue the feds for denying COVID-19 relief to undocumented, other students. // The Los Angeles Times

Why some progressives are frustrated with Nancy Pelosi’s coronavirus relief bill. // The San Francisco Chronicle

Face masks now required in Los Angeles whenever you leave the house. // The Los Angeles Times

San Diego County asks feds to help block tribal casinos from reopening Monday. // The San Diego Union-Tribune

Gimme Shelter podcast: A California renter and landlord talk #CancelTheRent. // CalMatters/The Los Angeles Times

Financial support for California’s undocumented immigrants starts Monday. // CalMatters

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See you Monday.

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Emily Hoeven writes the daily WhatMatters newsletter for CalMatters. Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco Business...