Slow roll to finish California budget

Your guide to California policy and politics
Lynn La BY Lynn La July 5, 2023
Presented by Dairy Cares, Climate-Smart Agricultural Partnership, Southern California Gas Company and Earthjustice

Slow roll to finish California budget

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Slowly but surely, Gov. Gavin Newsom is signing key budget bills, often waiting until the drop-dead deadline. But in an effort to secure his infrastructure streamlining proposals, he appears to be waiting to give his final OK to 20 budget-related bills, including trailer bills that fill in the budget’s details and take effect immediately.

Besides signing off on the main budget bills for the 2023-24 fiscal year on June 27 and June 30, the governor also approved one to boost reimbursements for certain Medi-Cal providers by using funds from a bigger tax on health insurance plans.

On Monday, the Assembly finished its votes on Newsom’s series of infrastructure streamlining bills, although not without reservations. Democratic Assemblymember Carlos Villapudua of Stockton, expressed his wish that legislators had “more than a few weeks to flesh this proposal out,” reports Politico.

Today, the Senate is expected to take its final vote on the infrastructure package, agreeing to some Assembly amendments before sending it to Newsom’s desk. To keep up with other key budget dates, check out CalMatters’ updated timeline of the whole process.

As a follow-up to the budget deal, child care providers and the state reached a tentative agreement on Friday, hours before the union contract for 40,000 home-based providers was to expire. The budget already includes $1 billion for boosting provider pay. This new contract — which, if the state and the union confirm it later this summer, will last through 2025 — also sets up a first-in-the-nation retirement fund for providers, most of whom are women of color.

Through months of negotiation, child care providers argued that they don’t get paid enough by the state to cover the cost of their businesses. In a statement, the union said the new deal would set workers “on the path to finally be reimbursed for the full cost of providing care.” Besides receiving an ongoing $80 million a year toward retirement, providers would also receive an ongoing $100 million for health care and $600 million over two years in rate increases. 

One issue the budget has fallen short on, according to advocacy groups: homelessness. In particular, Newsom’s strategy of awarding one-time grants — instead of ongoing funding — has made it difficult for homeless service providers to find new sources of support.

This approach especially hurts long-term programs that have the greatest chance of making a difference, writes CalMatters’ homelessness reporter Marisa Kendall. Without guaranteed funding, they either have to continually keep reapplying for grants or shut down altogether.

One encampment outreach program in Grass Valley that paired a social worker with a police officer exceeded expectations, engaging with more than 200 people and helping some move into housing. But after its three-year grant ended in June, the program could no longer continue.

For more on this homelessness program, read the rest of Marisa’s story.


CalMatters covers the Capitol: CalMatters has guides to keep track of your lawmakers, explore its record diversity, make your voice heard, understand how state government works and follow the state budget process. We have a lesson-plan-ready version of the explainer — especially made for teachers, libraries and community groups — as part of the CalMatters for Learning initiative.


1 CA students take a hit in the wallet

Fresno State students walk through campus on Sept. 27, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local
Fresno State students walk through campus on Sept. 27, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local

College students suffered back-to-back blows last week — one delivered by California State University and the other by the U.S. Supreme Court.

As CalMatters’ higher education reporter Mikhail Zinshteyn writes, on Thursday, Cal State posted its proposal to increase tuition for undergraduate and graduate students by 6% annually starting in the fall 2024 academic year. The proposal comes nearly two months after the university issued a 70-page report that suggested tuition increases could help cover Cal State’s growing $1.5 billion shortfall.

Cal State’s Board of Trustees is expected to hear the proposal on July 11, and vote by September whether to approve the increases. If it does, the decision will signify a change of course for the university, which has hiked tuition only once in the past 11 years.

The nearly 60% of Cal State’s students who receive state financial aid would not be affected by the increases. But for those who do pay, tuition would rise steadily from $6,084 in the first year of the hike to $7,682 by 2028-29. There’s no end date, though Cal State leaders suggested reassessing after five years.

Such a tuition hike would increase the university’s revenue by $148 million within the first year. Cal State plans to route 33% of that new money into financial aid for low-income students.

Aid will be even more crucial now that the U.S. Supreme Court shot down President Biden’s sweeping effort to forgive as much as $20,000 in student loan debt for tens of millions of Americans, including an estimated 3.5 million Californians. The majority decision, handed down Friday, argued the Biden administration overstepped —  and that only Congress has the power to waive the debt.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta, who in January joined other attorneys general in an amicus brief supporting Biden’s proposal, issued a statement saying that as a result of the ruling, millions of borrowers have been “hung out to dry.”

2 Single-payer supporters are split

The California Nurses Association, which led the coalition behind the high-profile 2017 push for a single-payer system, has re-branded its campaign with the slogan “Fight to Win Medicare-for-All." Photo by Dan Honda, Bay Area News Group
Members of the California Nurses Association at an event to promote ‘Medicare for all’. Photo by Dan Honda, Bay Area News Group

Last year, a legislative push for single-payer, state-run health care failed to get a vote in the state Assembly, angering progressive Democrats who regarded the issue as a longtime priority for the party. 

Now, advocates have split their support between two measures that either hurt or help one another’s efforts, depending on whom you ask.

As CalMatters’ health reporter Ana B. Ibarra explains, California spending on health care is projected to grow by $158 billion by 2031. While experts and health advocates agree that the current system costs too much and leaves too many behind, they’re divided over how to change things.

  • Senate Bill 770 is the “go slow” approach — an incremental path to a statewide “unified financing” system that would cover health care for all residents. The bill would establish a workgroup to come up with next steps, and calls for the state to work with the federal government to approve such a system. This measure is backed by a coalition of health, labor and civil rights advocacy groups.
  • Assembly Bill 1690 is the “just do it” approach — it would create a single-payer system called CalCare. Details are scant for now, but supporters say it will use the same legislation that died last year as a starting point. This two-year bill, meaning it won’t face a hearing until next session, is backed by the California Nurses Association.

The nurses’ union argues that lawmakers will use SB 770 as an excuse to vote down AB 1690. The union’s lead regulatory policy specialist told Ana that if legislators authorize a workgroup, they will say “it’s too soon to talk about CalCare and single payer because we’re studying it.” The union is also concerned that “unified financing” doesn’t necessarily mean a single-payer system, and that the method leaves room for health insurers to profit.

But Sen. Scott Wiener, who authored SB 770, views both bills as complementary and contends that his proposal will get the ball rolling on important conversations necessary for a single-payer system to become a reality. For example, California would need federal collaboration to maneuver around existing rules over how it can spend federal health dollars. 

Still, the Democrat from San Francisco acknowledges that both critics and supporters of his bill were historically allies on expanding health care access.

  • Wiener: “There is this disagreement now and I hope in the future that rift heals, but we all want the same result. We want everyone to have true universal access to health care.”

In other Capitol news: In his first big move since taking over, new Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas named his leadership team: Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry of Davis is speaker pro tem (replacing Chris Ward of San Diego) and Isaac Bryan of Culver City is majority leader (replacing Eloise Gómez Reyes of San Bernardino.)

While Rivas is rewarding those who supported him in his long leadership battle with former Speaker Anthony Rendon, Monday’s announced promotions also broaden the geographic reach and ethnic diversity of Assembly leadership in the most diverse Legislature in California’s history

  • Rivas, in a tweet: “The historic diversity of our Caucus speaks to the remarkable lived experiences across our great state. Our Leadership team also reflects this diversity so that we can uplift all residents.”

Rivas also said his leadership selections will result in some shuffling of committee chairpersons.

3 Fewer homicides, but violent crime up

Police officers stand guard near a crime scene in Los Angeles on March 8, 2023. Photo by Ringo H.W. Chiu, AP Photo
Police officers stand guard near a crime scene in Los Angeles on March 8, 2023. Photo by Ringo H.W. Chiu, AP Photo

From CalMatters criminal justice reporting intern Anabel Sosa:

Violent crime and property crimes ticked up in California last year, while murders were down, according to an annual report the Attorney General’s office released just before the holiday weekend. 

The office also issued an additional report on guns used in crimes — the first time the state has released an analysis on trends relating to “firearms that are illegally possessed, have been used in a crime, or are suspected of having been used in a crime.”

While the number of homicides in California declined from 2,361 in 2021 to 2,206 in 2022, other types of violent crimes — including robbery and assault — rose 6% last year. 

The number of reported property crimes, such as burglary and theft, have gone down since 2017, with the exception of 2022, which saw a 6.2% increase.

Some Republicans suggest that Democrats are “in denial” about crime in California and that they should abandon their soft-on-crime approach. 

  • Senate GOP leader Brian Jones, from El Cajon: “Sadly, we are not surprised to learn that California’s violent and property crime rates increased in 2022.” 

Gov. Newsom has addressed growing public concern over crime rates by fulfilling some promises he said would reform the criminal justice system, while also boosting crime-fighting efforts.

The gun death rate in California is far below the national average, and the state has some of the nation’s strictest gun laws. But after multiple mass shootings earlier this year, the Newsom administration sought to strengthen gun safety legislation. After the state was hit with a spike in retail theft last year, Newsom heightened the presence of police at shopping centers ahead of the holiday shopping season. And most recently, after a spate of burglaries in San Francisco’s downtown, Newsom told the San Francisco Chronicle that he plans to double state police in the city.

Other highlights from the 2022 report:

  • Gun violence accounted for 75% of all homicides last year. 
  • The homicide rate decreased 5% in 2022 to 5.7 per 100,000 people, compared to the historic high of 12.9 in 1993. 
  • Homicide arrests also went down, by 4.2% from 1,550 in 2021 to 1,480 in 2022.
  • Merced County had the highest homicide rate; Santa Cruz County,  the lowest.

CalMatters Commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Conflict between two California laws gets in the way of needed housing construction.

Bonus Walters: Public transit, hospitals and local homelessness programs fare very differently in the state budget deal.

Even more Walters: Will raising bridge tolls worsen San Francisco’s ‘doom loop?’


Other things worth your time

Some stories may require a subscription to read

What’s behind the strike of thousands of hotel workers in Los Angeles // CalMatters

Newsom builds a base in red states campaigning for Biden // Los Angeles Times

A new law is supposed to protect pregnant workers // California Healthline

Here are some new state laws that took effect July 1 // The Sacramento Bee

What California’s high-speed rail stations will look like // San Francisco Chronicle

New CA community colleges chief lays out ambitious goals // San Francisco Chronicle

SoCal bakeries may be first in US required to go electric // The Orange County Register

Oil and gas lobbying threatens California’s game-changing climate bills // Capital & Main

Sea lions are washing ashore sick, aggressive due to toxic algae // The San Diego Union-Tribune

California debate over wildfire retardant is heating up // Los Angeles Times

‘I don’t want to become San Francisco’: Urban woes spur state action on housing // Politico

Tesla’s Black workers claim lawsuits have not stopped abuse // The Mercury News

Elon Musk’s mother wants to cancel fight with Mark Zuckerberg // San Francisco Chronicle

Dead people among defunct cases at SF probation department // The San Francisco Standard

Another bus carrying dozens of migrants from Texas arrives in LA // Los Angeles Times

See you tomorrow


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