Budget Subcommittees Close Out Agendas, Full Budget Committees to Meet Next Week

Budget activities remained in full swing this week as the Legislature approaches the June 15 constitutional deadline to pass a budget for the upcoming 2021-22 fiscal year. On Monday, the Senate Budget & Fiscal Review Subcommittee No. 3 on Health and Human Services (HHS) convened a hearing to review remaining proposed investments, including items within the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

Among the items reviewed by the Subcommittee was the Newsom Administration’s proposal to invest $3 million for a pandemic response review, allowing CDPH to conduct a review of essential public health infrastructure needs and the root causes of disparities and inequities experienced by those disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. According to the Administration, the review would also assess lessons learned and identify programmatic gaps to inform and develop a budget proposal for the FY 2022-23 budget.

During the hearing, CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón presented the Administration’s proposal to review the pandemic response and discussed how long-term underfunding and the COVID-19 pandemic have exposed significant gaps in the ability of state and local public health agencies to respond to the needs of state residents. However, Dr. Aragón reassured the subcommittee of ongoing work in assessing the state of the state’s public health infrastructure and indicated a more robust funding proposal would be offered next year.

Subcommittee member Senator Richard Pan pushed back on the Newsom Administration, raising significant concerns with the lack of investments proposed for public health workforce and infrastructure. At one point, Dr. Pan, urging a long-term public health investment, expressed, “Let’s not pretend we don’t know there are problems. We already know there are problems,” ranging from information technology (IT) limitations to staff recruitment and retention challenges, among other significant areas.

Members of the California Can’t Wait Coalition, including CHEAC, provided public comment during the subcommittee hearing urging the Legislature to invest in $200 million ongoing for local health department infrastructure and workforce.

On Wednesday, the Senate Budget & Fiscal Review Subcommittee No. 3 and the Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 1 met to close out the majority of investment proposals related to health and human services. Notably, action on the Newsom Administration’s $3 million pandemic response review proposal was not taken by either subcommittee but instead deferred to the full budget committees.

With the conclusion of budget subcommittees’ work this week, full budget committees are set to meet next week to begin finalizing the 2021-22 budget. The full Senate Budget & Fiscal Review Committee will meet on Tuesday morning and the Assembly Budget Committee will meet on Wednesday afternoon. The Legislature is not anticipated to convene a Budget Conference Committee this year given COVID-19 restrictions and timing limitations in negotiating budget items with the Newsom Administration. As such, both budget committees will aim to find agreement on as many investment items as possible before hammering out remaining proposals between legislative leaders and the Governor.

Numerous high-level investments will be left up to full budget committees, including funding for public health infrastructure and workforce, the California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal (CalAIM), homelessness services, behavioral health, and other notable items. Over the next several weeks as legislators race to finalize their budget package, additional details on budget investments are anticipated to emerge. Further, with considerable resources to allocate and the complexity and size of several proposals, more granular budget deliberations and trailer bill development is likely to continue beyond the June 15 deadline.

Voting results from the Senate Budget & Fiscal Review Subcommittee No. 3 are available here. Voting results from the Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 1 are available here.