Proposed cuts draw fire

By Loretta Macktal, Executive Assistant to the Vice President, Government Relations

Capitol Update, Dec. 20, 2002 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

On Monday, December 16, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Resources (#3) met at the Capitol to discuss reactions to the Governor's proposed $10.2 billion package of program cuts and fund shifts. Representatives from the Legislative Analyst's Office and the Department of Finance participated in the hearing to offer their perspectives on several recommendations that represent $258 million worth of General Fund savings from the state's various environmental programs. Most of the savings would come in the form of cost shifts to bond revenues (roughly 60%) and reversion of unspent funds (about 25%). The balance (about 15%), would come in the form of actual program cuts, including a $2 million reduction in zero emission vehicle purchasing grants, a $1.6 million reduction in Department of Fish and Game enforcement programs and an $830,000 reduction in statewide water quality monitoring programs.

Both LAO and DOF representatives noted that these recommendations are merely the first round of proposals in the Resources area. One LAO representative stated that they would reintroduce several recommendations rejected during budget negotiations for the current fiscal year, including future cost shifts from the General Fund to fees. The LAO also noted that these proposals are likely to be more aggressive in 2003 given the severity of the shortfall and the relative paucity of corrective action options. One example offered by the LAO was full fee-based funding for the state's core water quality programs. Under the current budget act, the General Fund covers about 40% of program costs. This proposal comes on the heels of the state water board's action in September to double fees for some wastewater dischargers, the result of a political compromise in the budget act that targets industrial and municipal permittees while holding other dischargers harmless.

Environmental groups testified at the hearing, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the California League of Conservation Voters, arguing that environmental programs should not be tapped as a source of General Fund savings given that they represent less than 2% of the General Fund. These groups also supported the notion of shifting program costs from the General Fund to fees, embracing the “polluter pays” rhetoric used by the LAO and the Governor during this year's budget negotiations. Once again, this theme will be the centerpiece of a budget strategy aimed at preserving the status quo - without regard to potential program efficiencies - on the back of the business community.
Capitol updates archive 989898989