CalNonprofits Articles

Has there been another time in recent history when our state’s budget drew as much interest as it’s drawing now? With $197 billion coming to California state coffers and a current surplus of $45.7 billion, it wasn’t surprising that the recent Policy Forum webinar offering an insider’s look at what advocates should know about budget happenings in Sacramento attracted close to 1,000 registrants.

If you weren’t able to attend the webinar, you can watch the full recording here and also find some excellent resources shared by our speakers. The event was moderated by Julian Y. Cuevas, Director of Policy & Governmental Affairs at the Inland Empire Community Foundation, and included Esi Hutchful, Policy Analyst, California Budget & Policy Center; Jennifer Fearing, Principal, Fearless Advocacy, Sacramento-based advocate for CalNonprofits; and Mary Collins, Just Transition Program Manager, Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. The California Policy Forum is a partnership of CalNonprofits, Philanthropy California, and the League of California Community Foundations. Below are some highlights from the event.

Screen Shot policy forum

On the general landscape:

“Every two years, policy wonks say the upcoming election is going to be an exceptional one,” said Cuevas, as moderator. But this one, he promised, "is going to be a doozy." He noted:

  • An expected influx of new legislators come January 23, the result of redistricting, will fill as many as 30 seats and re-shape the landscape at the capitol.
  • The coming election offers a big opportunity to increase gender and racial diversity of the legislature.
  • The unprecedented budget surplus is likely to trigger the Gann Limit, and we don't know yet what those requirements will mean for final budget decisions.

On current budget proposals:

Esi Hutchful noted the generous spending plan in the Governor’s proposed budget, but also called out some missed opportunities. She reminded participants that the coming budget committee hearings offer the chance for advocates to “advance their own ideas about what the budget should look like for the coming year.” In addition, she offered:

  • A lot of proposed spending is one-time, rather than ongoing, which makes it particularly difficult to address long-term challenges like homelessness.
  • Gann restrictions may point the Governor and legislature towards infrastructure spending that meets those restrictions, when other more service- and people-oriented expenditures are needed.
  • If you don’t have a lot of capacity for ongoing advocacy, you can make your voice heard by calling in during the public comments at a budget committee hearing, to express support for or opposition to a specific budget item on the hearing agenda.

On 2022 Bill Prospects:

“We have to lean way in and look for resources to support our causes in our communities,” said Jennifer Fearing, urging participants to be “maximally opportunistic” given the funding coming available. She also noted that:

  • The $150M in new funding for the Small Business (and Nonprofit) COVID-19 Relief Grant Program will all come from the General Fund. The Governor’s January budget had folded the $20M left over from earlier rounds of the Nonprofit Cultural Institution Relief Program into that $150M, but advocacy by CalNonprofits and arts organizations helped keep that $20M available for cultural institutions.
  • Pursuing greater equity and appropriate reimbursement costs in government contracting with nonprofits is a high priority this year, and a coalition of organizations, including CalNonprofits, will be engaging the sector in calling on legislators and the Administration to address challenges so that contracts cover all program expenses and help ensure living wages for our employees.
  • Jennifer encouraged advocates who want more information about bills and the motivations behind them to call legislators’ offices to have bill fact sheets emailed to them.

On the Community Economic Engagement Fund (CERF):

While other states might have a single roadmap for improving the state's economy, California is too large and diverse for that approach, explained Mary Collins. “CERF offers communities a voice in planning for their economic future,” she said, adding:

  • CERF offers a regional approach to economic resilience, equity, and sustainable growth
  • The first phase will establish 13 different regional collaboratives that will receive $5M for inclusive planning processes to develop regional resilience and transition plans
  • The second phase is for implementation and includes $500M for investments that emerge from those regional plans and align with the program’s core values of promoting equity, job quality, and climate resilience

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