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Notes from Toni: Explaining the new budget

Posted: July 1st, 2016 | Columnists, Featured, Notes from Toni | No Comments

By Toni G. Atkins | Notes from Toni

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the state budget June 27. It is good news for Californians because it continues to invest in our future and our people. Gone are the stressful days of late budgets, borrowing, and IOUs. This budget is on time, fiscally prudent, and forward thinking.

It bolsters our reserves and restores programs that help Californians who are struggling to make ends meet. We also are adding $2 billion for the rainy-day fund that was proposed by the Assembly and approved by the voters of California in 2014. We will have $8.6 billion set aside to help withstand the economic downturn.

Assemblymember Toni Atkins

Toni G. Atkins

Specifically, this budget:

  • increases funding for public schools and community colleges by $3.5 billion
  • adds $143.9 million more for the University of California in ongoing funding —including $18.5 million if UC enrolls 2,500 more California students by 2017-18 and adopts a policy that caps nonresident enrollment — plus an additional $20 million in one-time funding
  • raises ongoing funding for the California State University by $160.8 million, plus $50 million in one-time funding, $35 million of which is contingent upon the CSU adopting a plan to meet certain graduation and enrollment targets
  • boosts childcare and preschool funding by a total of $145.3 million for a childcare rate increase and 2,959 new preschool slots (the increase will rise to $527 million by 2020, creating nearly 9,000 new preschool slots)

The budget also includes money for the minimum-wage increase, a restoration of hours for In-Home Supportive Services workers and the recent agreement to increase funding for Developmental Disability Services

One provision in the Legislature’s budget that wasn’t in the governor’s revised budget in May is a repeal of what’s known as the maximum family grant in the CalWORKS program. This has rightfully received a lot of attention; it punishes children in families struggling in poverty, and I have wanted to eliminate it for some time.

Speaking of CalWORKS, its Housing Support Program is near and dear to my heart. I was proud to have spearheaded the effort to launch what is, essentially, a rapid rehousing program for families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. It started with $20 million in 2014 and helped more than 2,000 families. Then it rose to $35 million last year and was expected to help roughly 4,500 families. This year, it increases to $47 million.

And speaking of housing, the budget includes the framework for a large investment in affordable housing. It provides $400 million for new affordable housing, as long as the legislature passes a bill that makes it a little easier to develop market-rate housing that includes affordable units and is close to transit.

I have been working hard to find a permanent source of funding for affordable housing. I’m thrilled that so many of my colleagues have joined the fight.

As my time in the Assembly draws to an end, I can’t help but recall my first year in the Capitol and the $26-billion deficit we faced. Through tough decisions, hard work by the legislature — in conjunction with our very focused governor, Jerry Brown — and with the support of the public, we’ve turned the corner and put California back on solid ground.

It has been an eye-opening experience with both highs and lows — always keeping in mind the impact on you, my constituents.

To be the first San Diegan to serve as Speaker of the California Assembly was an incredible honor. It gave me a unique opportunity to work with the governor and the Senate leader to shape the budget for this great state and the nearly 40 million people who call it home. I assure you, I will continue to use the experience I’ve gained to help create and support a sustainable budget for our city, our state, and my constituents.

Around the District: You have more time to support homeless veterans by donating to “Socks for Stand Down,” our drive to collect new socks and other undergarments to be distributed to veterans this month. The drive continues through July 8 — drop socks off at specially marked boxes at local branch libraries, including Mission Hills, Kensington, North Park and University Heights, and at my Downtown office, 1350 Front St., Room 6054. Stand Down, which offers a full range of services for homeless veterans, takes place from July 22-24. We’ve had a tremendous response so far. Thank you! … Looking forward to spending more time in the district in July for our summer legislative recess. I plan to attend San Diego Pride and several community meetings to offer my update on what we’re working on in the state Assembly … There are many chances this month to enjoy summer concerts and movies in my district. Don’t miss out on these free entertainment options! I’ll be enjoying the show July 8 in University Heights at Trolley Barn Park when one of my favorites, Sue Palmer & Her Motel Swing Orchestra, performs!

—Toni G. Atkins is the Speaker of the California State Assembly. For more information, please visit her website, asmdc.org/speaker where you can sign up for her e-newsletter or get the latest news on legislation and other activities. You also may follow her on Twitter, @toniatkins.

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