In the wee hours on Thursday morning, the California Legislature concluded its 2021–2022 legislative session, including finalizing a months-long process of adopting the final details of the state budget and a weeks-long process of passing expansive climate policies.
On Friday, May 13, 2022, California Gov. Gavin Newsom released the “May Revise.” The May Revise is an update to the proposed budget issued in January and sets forth the Governor’s plan for how to spend a record-setting budget and surplus.
In the last few months, we have worked to ensure community priorities are reflected in our state budget. Below check our thoughts on the good, not so good, and to be determined of the “May Revise.”
Economic Relief Package
- We appreciate the proposed appropriation of $200 million for water debt and the Governor’s statements in support of water affordability. However, we must also fund universal low-income rate assistance for water and wastewater service, and ensure that all water affordability programs are accessible to undoccumented Californians.
- We support the additional $1.2 billion for electricity debt and the extension of the eligible period through the end of 2021 but urge an expansion of eligibility for third-party debt incurred by residents to stay current with their energy bills.
- We support the additional $2.7 billion for Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) for low-income tenants who applied for rental assistance. However, the Governor must invest additional funds to the ERAP so tenants who were not able to apply before the March 31st deadline are not displaced.
Drought Relief, Groundwater Management, Salton Sea Restoration
We are encouraged to see the Governor’s $1.3 billion investment for drought recovery and resiliency. We appreciate the focus on drought relief and request these additional considerations:
- Funding for Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) implementation must include a 30% set aside for projects that benefit drinking water, disadvantaged communities, and support community engagement.
- Funding for Multi-Benefit Land Repurposing that prioritizes land retirement and provides direct and meaningful benefits to disadvantaged communities. This needs to include benefits for impacted farmworkers, including but not limited to compensation for job loss.
- For Salton Sea investments, we continue to ask for specific allocations for community-identified infrastructure and amenities that provide multiple benefits to residents living near the Sea in order to increase access to the outdoors, enhance recreational opportunities, and support climate resilience and public health.
Investment in Community Resilience
- We support the inclusion of $170 million as part of the extreme heat set aside to construct and upgrade community resilience centers in vulnerable communities – a key investment that will provide community-level access to cooling, clean air, and backup power during heat waves, wildfires, and other climate disasters. This funding is a good first step and we urge Governor Newsom and the legislature to meet the scale of the need by increasing funding to $1 BILLION.
THE NOT SO GOOD
NO FUNDING For Legal Assistance For Vulnerable Tenants Is Included
- Missing from the Governor’s revised budget is the inclusion of a Statewide Homelessness Prevention Fund that invests in tenant outreach and education and legal aid for renters at risk of eviction. This investment is crucial to keep families in their homes and prevent the further loss of affordable housing. As the Governor recognized in his message when he vetoed last year’s AB 1487, there are ongoing needs in communities across California to ensure vulnerable tenants are able to successfully utilize the protections and resources we have made available to them.
Inadequate Pesticide Protection Investments
- Communities throughout the state have elevated the need for focused investments on measures to prevent pesticide exposure. This REMAINS A SERIOUS GAP in California’s spending plan.
NO FUNDING for Statewide Low Income rate Assistance Program
- Drinking water advocates call on the state to provide at least $305 million for a new universal state program to help low-income families pay their water bills. This Low-Income Water Rate Assistance Program, as detailed in SB 222 (Dodd), will help the state address its long-standing water debt crisis, which deepened during the pandemic. While the May Revise includes one-time funding for water debt, it does not include funding for low-income water rate assistance. We urge the Governor to appropriate funding for low-income rate assistance to ensure that all Californians can afford their monthly water and sewer bills.
Inadequate Community and Environmental Protection In the Lithium Valley
- We are DISAPPOINTED to see that the updated Lithium Valley proposal FAILS to consider the entire Salton Sea region that will be impacted by lithium extraction and we are concerned that proposed changes to environmental review processes will lead to inadequate consideration of environmental and public health impacts. We urge the Governor to include the Eastern Coachella Valley in Riverside County in all decisions regarding Lithium Valley development moving forward. Residents in this region have been vocal for over a year about their concerns, and this proposal fails to recognize their advocacy as communities who may be negatively impacted by this development. The state must ensure a participatory process that allows community residents to inform and guide decisions regarding Lithium Valley and guarantees a comprehensive environmental review process for any current and future projects for lithium extraction, processing, and supply chain development.
Lack of Investment in the Environmental Enforcement and Training Act
- We are DISAPPOINTED that the May Revise did not include investments to implement recent and sought after changes to the Environmental Enforcement and Training Act designed to improve collaboration to address environmental violations impacting disadvantaged communities.
False Climate Solutions (1)
- We are DISAPPOINTED to see that the May Revise DID NOT ADDRESS CONCERNS WE RAISED regarding money allocated in the January budget for manure management, especially with regards to funding to dairy digesters. The state should be focused on reducing emissions rather than encouraging production of more methane.
TO BE DETERMINED
Equitable Building Decarbonization
- We strongly supported the January budget’s proposal to include almost $1 billion for equitable building decarbonization and remain committed to working with the administration and legislature to ensure that those funds reach the most vulnerable communities and households. We urge inclusion of policy language that allows investment in holistic home upgrades so that all homes can support and sustain energy upgrades as well as tenant protections to ensure energy improvements do not lead to displacement.
- We appreciate consideration of and investment in better understanding the impacts of unchecked methane emissions through methane monitoring. We are optimistic that this data will inform effective regulatory changes to address methane emissions from livestock and other sources.
False Climate Solutions (2)
- We are concerned to see $100 million allocated to support carbon removal projects with little specificity around the type of projects and no identified community protections. California should be developing the strongest climate policy focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pollution through direct emissions reductions. If and when carbon dioxide removal is needed to mitigate the worst of climate change impacts, public money should target community-supported natural sequestration projects that will restore the health of California’s lands and ecosystems.
With an unprecedented surplus revenue we call for bold and transformative investments. Much work remains to be done to ensure effective and equitable investments to advance environmental and racial justice in California. We look forward to working with community residents, advocates, legislators, and the administration to adopt a state budget that supports a resilient, healthy, and equitable Inland California.