Cap-and-Trade Funds, Health and Safety Net Spending Are Major Concerns, Greenlining Institute Says
SACRAMENTO – Gov. Brown’s upcoming budget – the first in many years in which the state has not faced large deficits – will get close scrutiny from advocates for underserved communities, policy experts at The Greenlining Institute said today.
“We’ve seen years of devastating cuts that hurt all Californians, but took the heaviest toll on Californians of color and our state’s most vulnerable populations across the board,” said Greenlining Institute Executive Director Orson Aguilar. “This must be the year we start to repair the damage.”
Greenlining will focus particular attention on the following budget areas:
• Cap-and-trade funds: To the dismay of many, last year’s budget loaned $500 million from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to the state general fund. Advocates for low-income communities have joined with environmentalists to urge that these funds be returned and that the GGRF be used for its intended purpose. Thanks to SB 535 and AB 1532, passed in 2012, these efforts to reduce pollution must include substantial investment in highly polluted and economically disadvantaged areas. “Community groups have identified a wide range of projects that cap-and-trade money can fund to clean the air, bring good jobs to struggling communities and boost California’s economy across the board,” said Greenlining Environmental Equity Director Vien Truong. “This is a need that cannot wait any longer.”
• Health: Medi-Cal expansion will play a critical role in expanding access to health care, but only if there are enough doctors and other medical workers in the system, and that will require reversing cuts to Medi-Cal reimbursement rates. Also, years of crisis budgets meant drastic cuts to much-needed public health programs. Greenlining Health Policy Director Carla Saporta said, “As we work to balance the budget, we also need to start restoring services to critical programs like the Black Infant Health Program and the Early Mental Health Initiative that keep our communities healthy.”
• Safety Net: To lift people out of poverty, California must reverse the years of draconian cuts to CalWORKs, which included drastic reductions in the length of time very poor Californians can receive cash assistance and help with job training.
“Voters of color played a crucial role in electing Gov. Brown and many other state officeholders, and have borne the brunt of years of budget cuts,” Aguilar said. “We’re looking for leadership to put California on a path back to equity and common sense.”