Five Reasons to Register This Week for Policy Insights 2015

February 25, 2015

register now graphicThis week is the last chance to register in advance for Policy Insights 2015 on March 4th in Sacramento. Pre-registration ends this Friday, so don’t miss out on saving your spot at the premier conference for advocates, policymakers, researchers, and other leaders working to improve the lives of low- and middle-income Californians.

Why register for our annual conference? There are at least five good reasons:

1. Keynote by Ezra Klein. The editor-in-chief of Vox.com will discuss the intersection of data analysis, new media, and public policy, and what it means for California and the nation.

2. Perspectives on a Changing State. A luncheon plenary with State Senator Holly Mitchell, Zocalo Public Square’s Joe Mathews, and Manuel Pastor of USC’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity will examine the opportunities and questions presented by a changing California.

3. Policy Prospects for Creating a More Equitable Future.
An afternoon plenary with recent legislative leaders John Perez and Darrell Steinberg and former state finance director Ana Matosantos will discuss how California can make policy choices that position the state for economic prosperity that is broadly shared.

4. A Variety of Workshop Sessions on Critical State Issues. Workshop sessions will examine state revenue options, strategies for addressing poverty in California, support for higher education, the federal policy landscape, sentencing reform, the state budget debate, current issues in K-12 education, and children’s health. (Read the full workshop descriptions.)

5. Birthday Cake. The California Budget Project is having its 20th anniversary this year. Come help us celebrate!

Be sure to sign-up by the advance registration deadline of this Friday so you don’t miss out. We look forward to seeing you on March 4th!

— Steven Bliss


The Other Third of California’s Budget

February 23, 2015

Most people are aware that we spend money on public programs to support various policy goals, but less well known is that we also “spend” a lot of tax money by not collecting it in the first place. Lawmakers and voters can do this by approving exceptions to the state’s (and the nation’s) basic tax structure through what are called “tax expenditures.” The Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) estimates that for state fiscal year 2014-15 California would have half again as much General Fund revenue — $55 billion more — if we had no tax expenditures. That’s a big sum of money, and you can bet that if it were program spending, people would scrutinize it with a magnifying glass.

So what do we get from forgoing all this revenue? Do these tax expenditures actually achieve their goals? The truth is, it’s hard to say for sure because we often simply don’t have good data and haven’t done a good job legislating rigorous evaluation and oversight. Tax expenditures vary broadly, ranging from the exemption of most food and candy sales from the sales tax, to the Mortgage Interest Deduction, to tax breaks for businesses, and more. Check out the LAO’s overview of the biggest tax expenditures in California, pros and cons of pushing policy goals through the tax code instead of public programs, and challenges in using them effectively.

— William Chen


Policy Insights 2015: Don’t Miss These Workshops on State Revenues, Higher Ed, Children’s Health, and More

February 18, 2015

register now graphicThere’s just a couple of days left to save on registration for Policy Insights 2015, our annual conference coming up on March 4th in Sacramento. In addition to celebrating the CBP’s 20th anniversary, we’re excited to have Ezra Klein, editor-in-chief of Vox.com, providing the keynote address on how timely, accessible analysis and commentary can shape and advance public policy.

Other plenary speakers will include State Senator Holly MitchellManuel Pastor of USC’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, Zocalo Public Square’s Joe Mathews, John A. Pérez, Darrell Steinberg, and former Department of Finance Director Ana J. Matosantos.

The conference will also feature a wide range of workshop sessions at which participants can discuss many of the critical issues facing our state. Some of these sessions include:

Revenue and Tax Policy: Weighing Options and Prospects for Reform

Speakers:

  • Tim Gage, Blue Sky Consulting Group
  • Lenny Goldberg, California Tax Reform Association
  • Jean Ross, Ford Foundation and former executive director, California Budget Project

State Support for California’s Public Universities: Looking Beyond the Current Debate, Reinvesting for the Long Term

Speakers:

  • Lande Ajose, California Competes: Higher Education for a Strong Economy
  • Debbie Cochrane, The Institute for College Access & Success
  • Hans P. Johnson, Public Policy Institute of California

Children’s Health Programs in California: Where We Are and What Comes Next

Speakers:

  • Kelly Hardy, Children Now
  • Jenny Kattlove, The Children’s Partnership
  • Edwin Park, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Visit the Policy Insights 2015 event page for a full list of workshops and other conference sessions and to reserve your spot at the premier conference for advocates, policymakers, researchers, and other leaders working to improve the lives of low- and middle-income Californians.

Earlybird registration has been extended through tomorrow, February 19, so register today.

— Steven Bliss


Conference Workshop on March 4th Will Explore Strategies for Reducing Poverty in California

February 12, 2015

Millions of Californians, many of them children, live in poverty today. By one measure California has the highest poverty rate in the nation. Public policies can address poverty, and the deep economic hardship in California calls for a sustained, multifaceted response from state leaders. What specifically should be done?

An afternoon workshop at Policy Insights 2015, the California Budget Project’s annual conference coming up on March 4th in Sacramento, will take a close look at policy strategies for addressing economic hardship in our state and their potential impact on low-income individuals and families. This session will feature the following panelists:

  • Speaker of the Assembly Toni G. Atkins
  • Senator Mark Leno, chair, Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee
  • Assemblymember Mark Stone, member, Assembly Committee on Human Services
  • Erica Williams, assistant director of state fiscal research, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
  • Chris Hoene, executive director, California Budget Project (Moderator)

We hope you’ll join us for this and other sessions — including the keynote address from Ezra Klein, editor-in-chief of Vox.com — that will explore the most pressing issues and questions facing our state. You’ll also be helping the California Budget Project celebrate our 20th anniversary.

Early-bird registration ends February 19th, so register today to save 15% off the full registration.

Questions? Contact us at cbp@cbp.org or 916-444-0500. We look forward to seeing you on March 4th!

— Steven Bliss


Ezra Klein to Keynote Our Annual Conference on March 4th

February 5, 2015

We are pleased to announce that Ezra Klein, one of the foremost thinkers on the intersection of media, data-driven analysis, and public policy, will be the keynote speaker at Policy Insights 2015 on March 4th in SacramentoEzra Klein.

Klein is founding editor-in-chief of Vox.com, a columnist with Bloomberg News, and policy analyst/contributor at MSNBC. He previously oversaw the Washington Post‘s Wonkblog and was associate editor at The American Prospect.

In his morning keynote, Klein will explore California’s role in national policy debates and will discuss what the changing media environment means for how timely, accessible analysis and commentary can shape the discussion.

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from this leading and always thought-provoking observer of the political scene — and also to join the CBP in celebrating our 20th anniversary! The early-bird discount ends on February 13th, so register today.

Questions? Contact us at cbp@cbp.org or 916-444-0500.

— Steven Bliss


SSI/SSP and the Governor’s Proposed 2015-16 Budget: Recession-Era Cuts Remain in Place

January 29, 2015

During the dark days of California’s recent budget crisis, state policymakers had to make very tough choices about which critical public services to cut, and by how much. At the time, there was a general expectation around the state Capitol — and throughout California — that as the economy improved and revenues came back, policymakers would undo some or all of the reductions that they imposed during and following the Great Recession.

While lawmakers and the Governor have begun to reinvest in important services and systems over the past couple of years, some key programs remain on the chopping block despite a growing state economy and higher revenues. This list includes one of California’s most important public supports for seniors and people with disabilities: SSI/SSP (the Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment program). SSI/SSP uses both federal (SSI) and state (SSP) dollars to provide modest monthly grants that are intended to help 1.3 million low-income Californians keep a roof over their heads and purchase food and other basic necessities.

We described the state’s recession-era cuts to SSI/SSP cash assistance in a previous blog post. The bottom line is that state policymakers cut California’s portion of the grant from $568 to $396 for couples and from $233 to $156 for individuals. As a result, the maximum grant for individuals — currently $889 per month, including the federal SSI grant — amounts to just 90 percent of the federal poverty line. (In 2015, the poverty line for an individual is $11,770, or roughly $980 per month.) These state cuts undoubtedly increased hardship for vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities. Yet, they remain in place today, and the Governor proposes to maintain the state’s SSP grants at their current levels in 2015-16, the fiscal year that begins this coming July 1.

While the significant human cost of the state’s cuts to SSI/SSP grants is impossible to quantify, we can assess the impact on the state budget. These cuts substantially lowered state support for SSI/SSP, as shown in the following chart.

Human-Svcs---SSI-SSP---Funding;-State-$-CHART

In 2007-08, the year the Great Recession began in California, the state spent about $3.9 billion for its share of SSI/SSP cash assistance, after adjusting for inflation. The Governor proposes to spend $2.5 billion on SSI/SSP grants in 2015-16, more than one-third below the 2007-08 level. In other words, after taking into account the cost of living, the state is providing $1.4 billion less for SSI/SSP grants than it spent on the eve of the Great Recession — and this despite the fact that the number of Californians enrolled in SSI/SSP has risen by more than 5 percent since 2007-08.

So, when the Governor forecasts balanced state budgets for the next few years, it’s important to keep in mind that this promising fiscal scenario rests on a troubling assumption: that state policymakers will leave in place the recession-era cuts to SSI/SSP grants, perhaps permanently. Put another way, the Governor’s proposed budget is built on well over $1 billion in annual state “savings” that come from reducing a critical source of basic income for more than 1 million of the state’s most vulnerable residents.

As this year’s state budget debate heats up, state lawmakers — and all Californians — should ask themselves if this is the kind of “fiscal prudence” they bargained for.

— Scott Graves


Don’t Miss These Speakers at Policy Insights 2015

January 26, 2015

register now graphicPlease join us on March 4th at the Sacramento Convention Center for Policy Insights 2015. The California Budget Project’s annual conference brings together hundreds of advocates, policymakers, researchers, and other leaders to explore many of the major policy questions and challenges facing our state today.

This year we’ll have several expert plenary speakers on hand to help celebrate our 20th anniversary and discuss how smart policy choices can help create pathways to opportunity for all Californians. Speakers include:
  • Joe Mathews, California & innovation editor, Zócalo Public Square
  • Ana J. Matosantos, policy consultant and former director, Department of Finance
  • Manuel Pastor, director, Program for Environmental and Regional Equity and co-director, Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration, University of Southern California
  • John A. Pérez, regent, University of California Board of Regents and speaker emeritus, Assembly
  • Darrell Steinberg, chair, California Government Law & Policy Practice, Greenberg Traurig and former Senate president pro tem
  • And others to be announced soon!

Discounted early-bird registration ends February 13th, so be sure to register todayQuestions? Contact us at cbp@cbp.org or 916-444-0500.

— Steven Bliss