Wednesday, January 10, 2024
Press Contact: Sumeet Bal, Director of Communications, 917-647-1952, firstname.lastname@example.org
Proposed Budget Preserves Vital Education and Safety Net Programs But Cuts Critical Affordable Housing Funding
Sacramento, Calif.—Today Governor Gavin Newsom released his January draft budget proposal amidst an estimated $37.86 billion deficit. The budget serves as a reflection of our state’s values and policy priorities. As a law firm and advocacy organization dedicated to challenging the drivers of poverty and racial inequality, our review and response to the budget proposal centers on the likely impact on vulnerable Californians.
“The governor’s proposal is considerably less dire than what we were expecting. We are relieved by and applaud his efforts to largely preserve historic commitments in education, mental health, health, and social services that protect Californians, and his use of reserves to make this possible,” said Guillermo Mayer, President & CEO of Public Advocates. “At the same time, we are profoundly concerned by the proposed $1.2 billion in cuts to critical housing programs that are essential to stemming the unprecedented housing crisis facing low-income residents, communities of color, and unhoused Californians. We are committed to partnering with the governor and the legislature to protect funding for housing.”
“In the face of a large deficit, we applaud the governor’s commitment to maintain the recent core transformative investments in TK-16 including for community schools, universal TK, and the Equity Multiplier. The fact that the governor particularly called out these investments with a “don’t touch” message to the legislature indicates he will fight hard to maintain them,” said John Affeldt, Public Advocates’ Managing Attorney.
“As longtime advocates for redressing the teacher shortage and improving educator diversity, we also strongly support the budget’s long-overdue proposal to eliminate redundancies in the educator pipeline by recognizing a B.A. as satisfying the basic skills requirement and improving transcript review to certify subject matter competency.”
“We understand the administration faced challenging choices to propose a balanced budget in light of the deficit. Higher education students face rising costs, both on and off campus, including tuition, textbooks and housing,” said Sbeydeh Viveros-Walton, Director of Higher Education. “We remain concerned for the most vulnerable students who would benefit from investments in Cal Grant reform and student housing programs that are now deferred.”
The 2023 California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) Food and Housing Survey reports that more than half of public higher education students report being housing insecure—a major barrier to a college degree.
“The administration’s prioritization of the Higher Education Student Housing Grant program is an equitable use of limited state resources for student housing,” said Jetaun Stevens, Senior Staff Attorney, Higher Education Equity at Public Advocates. “We are, however, concerned about the administration’s proposal to pull back future funding for student housing and the overall reduction in affordable housing funding.”
Housing Affordability and Renter Protections
“Just as the state prioritizes education, our leadership must also embrace its responsibility to ensure every Californian has a stable roof over their head. We need to preserve affordable housing funding and programs that provide a critical safety net, remedy homelessness, and support enforcement of housing protections through a responsible use of our state’s reserves,” said Public Advocates’ Managing Attorney Sam Tepperman-Gelfant. “We also call on the governor and legislature to put strong ballot initiatives in front of voters this year to generate substantial state revenue for affordable housing production and preservation, and to lower barriers for cities and counties to pass local affordable housing funding measures. We know from history that economic downturns are precisely the times when we must invest in resources for our most marginalized neighbors; now is the time to double down on addressing our state’s alarming affordable housing and homelessness crisis, and its disproportionate impact on people of color.”
“We recognize the complex, difficult choices the governor and legislature face in confronting a major budget deficit,” said Michelle Pariset, Public Advocates’ Director of Legislative Affairs. “However, it is critical that our leadership ultimately ensures that the projected budget shortfall isn’t shouldered by the communities already most burdened by low wages, skyrocketing housing costs, and historic disinvestment. Cutting housing programs by $1.2 billion will only exacerbate a dire situation for these communities. For tenants, the tsunami of evictions prevented by the COVID moratorium is now materializing, pushing more of our neighbors onto the streets. Absent funding for programs like the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, the number of families and seniors who face homelessness will continue to rapidly climb. The governor has said that his priority on homelessness is to make encampments disappear; this cannot be accomplished humanely without providing affordable housing at the scale of the problem. We intend to fully engage with legislative leaders—who have named housing as a top priority—to preserve housing funding and hope to see significant improvement in the May Revision.”
“Our transit system’s financial viability continues to remain an issue,” said Laurel Paget-Seekins, Public Advocates’ Senior Transportation Advocate and member of California’s Transit Transformation Task Force. “Given this year’s budget constraints, this is a reasonable starting place for ensuring the final budget prioritizes the needs of our low-income neighbors and workers who depend on transit service to access school, work, and other basic needs. California needs to continue the short-term transit funding in last year’s budget, while identifying dedicated and stable long-term funding sources to maintain and grow transit service to support our equity and climate goals.”
Public Advocates Inc. is a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization that challenges the systemic causes of poverty and racial discrimination by strengthening community voices in public policy and achieving tangible legal victories advancing education, housing, transportation equity, and climate justice.