The Governor's new budget proposal: What looks good and what's still missing

On Tuesday, Governor Brown released his state budget proposal for 2018 - 2019. This is a big deal: it's where we see the state's priorities. California is now an international leader on climate change, with progressive equity policies. Are the funds there to support these goals?

It is critical that the Governor’s budget provide a strong path for implementation. Funding will enable the state to deliver on its ambitious goals around climate and social equity.

Here's what we see in the budget proposal that looks good:

• Increased funding for sustainable transportation: This budget proposal includes SB 1, also known as the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, which invests $55 billion dollars into California's transportation system over the next 10 years. It triples state investment in public transportation, nearly doubles the state’s funding for safe walking and bicycling, supports regional and local planning efforts for sustainable communities, and includes funding for workforce development.

• The creation of a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund: Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, Community Water Center, Clean Water Action, and more than 100 organizations -- including many ClimatePlan partners -- have supported the creation of a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. This budget proposal includes $4.7 million for the State Water Board and Department of Food and Agriculture to take initial steps towards implementation of this new program.

• A $4B bond to improve and increase access to local neighborhood parks: This budget proposal also includes SB 5, a proposed bond that will go before state voters in June 2018. If it passes, SB will provide $4 billion dollars for parks, water, coastal protection, safe drinking water, and more. It includes over $1 billion dollars to improve and rehabilitate local park facilities, as well as expand access to neighborhood parks.

However, we see a few big issues that are not adequately addressed in the budget.

Here's what's missing:

Priority for sustainable transportation. Transportation funding in the Governor’s budget is still heavily skewed toward cars. While we are supportive of elements of SB 1, the largest pots of transportation funding in the Governor’s budget proposal are dedicated to highways and roads. If we truly want to combat climate change, we must be explicit that highway capacity should only be used as a last resort. Otherwise, we will continue to see GHG emissions rise from increased driving.

Benefits for underserved and overburdened communities as part of transportation investments. People in low-income communities and communities of color suffer the greatest risks from investments in highways and roads. They are burdened with higher rates of exposure to traffic pollution, which leads to increased asthma attacks, and higher rates of chronic disease. Providing direct benefits to these communities will start making our state's transportation systems into real resources for everyone, instead of sources of contamination and illness for some.

More funding for affordable housing. Finally, the lack of affordable housing in California must be addressed. While we appreciate that the Legislature -- and the Governor -- took action last year by passing a number of housing bills, including SB 2 and SB 3 which will provide some funding to create affordable housing, we all know that more is needed. For example, millions live in fear of the next rent hike (including the person writing this blog post) and yet, we saw AB 1506, which would repeal Costa-Hawkins die yesterday. With Costa-Hawkins still in effect, many cities are limited in the rent control policies they can adopt -- and this will continue to exacerbate the housing affordability crisis.

We are celebrating and applauding the positives in the Governor’s budget. And over the next five months, as the Governor and Legislature negotiate on a final budget, we will be working hard with our partners to fill the gaps.

We'd like to see a spending plan that lives up to the state's priorities around climate and equity, for a better future for all Californians.

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