Senate Democrats Unveil 2021-22 Budget Priorities

This week, the California Senate Democrats released “Build Back Boldly: Senate Democrats Budget Priorities for 2021-22 and Beyond” detailing priority investments for the state as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. The overall goals of the Senate Democrats include a more equitable economy that supports and improves pathways out of poverty, a stronger middle class that improves affordability of housing, health care, and education, and a better economy for all state residents.

Senate Democrats identify their approach to available American Rescue Plan funds to be received by California, which include limiting ongoing negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing additional fiscal relief to small businesses and nonprofit organizations, filling gaps in other federal stimulus programs to assist local governments and other entities, and funding critical and eligible infrastructure projects.

The Build Back Boldly budget proposes eight significant investments, as well as key budget subcommittee packages. The eight transformative investments include:

  • Debt Free College: This proposal includes three parts, focusing on improving and filling gaps in the current Cal Grant Program, expanding the Middle Class Scholarship to specified CSU and UC students, and assisting Californians with current student debt.
  • Universal Access to Early Care and Education: Senate Democrats propose to make significant investments in childcare slots, a childcare worker training program, and childcare provider support.
  • Homelessness, Housing Affordability, and Homeownership: The budget includes a multipart approach to housing and homelessness in California, including a $20 billion, five-year commitment to end the state’s homelessness crisis through the acquisition and rehabilitation of permanent housing options and funding local efforts to reduce homelessness. The plan additionally incorporates approaches to improve housing affordability and create a new first time homebuyer program.
  • Wildfire Prevention and Resilience: Senate Democrats intend to build upon early budget action taken on wildfire investments to provide a sustainable, multiyear commitment to addressing wildfire risks in California.
  • Drought Protection: The proposal outlines a major $2 billion commitment to address and mitigate the impacts of drought, including through safe drinking water improvements, water efficient landscapes, and other one-time and immediate investments in water quality and recycling to reduce drought impacts.
  • Health Access and Affordability: Senate Democrats propose to reduce Covered California deductibles and copays, expand access to Medi-Cal to all income-eligible residents regardless of immigration status, reform asset tests for Medi-Cal eligibility, and commit to address health inequities.
  • Small Business and Nonprofit Support: The budget proposal outlines fiscal support for California’s small businesses and nonprofit organizations, including through additional stimulus grants, tourism promotion, live event support, and an expansion of employee hiring and retention tax credits.
  • State Systems Improvements: Senate Democrats propose to improve government services and customer access, including for the Employment Development Department, invest in broadband infrastructure, and upgrade aging IT/software systems among state agencies.

The Senate Democrats Build Back Boldly budget plan includes specific packages assembled by each of the Senate’s five budget subcommittees. Notably, for the Senate Budget & Fiscal Review Subcommittee No. 3 on Health and Human Services, the subcommittee identifies a series of investments in the public safety net and aging services.

Subcommittee No. 3 additionally details a public health package, which includes:

  • Recommitting to investments in state and local public health infrastructure to achieve improved population health and maintain vigilance against future infectious disease outbreaks.
  • Developing a coordinated strategy to reduce preventable diseases and transmission of infectious diseases.
  • Developing an agile public health workforce that can cross-train in multiple public health priorities to address long-term and emergent needs.
  • Maintaining diagnostic and epidemiological capacity built up during the pandemic and reorienting to other pressing public health needs when the emergency ends.
  • Investing in public health strategies to address the vast health disparities exacerbated by the pandemic, based on enhanced data collection to identify inequities among subpopulations.

Recall, the Governor will release his May Revise budget in early May, at which point the Legislature is anticipated to shift its focus back to budget activities to reach the June 15 constitutional deadline to pass a budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The full Senate Democrats’ Build Back Boldly plan is available here.