Pandemic Pushes California Lawmakers Into Fast Action on State Budget

Publication: KQED Radio/The California Report

California lawmakers are wasting little time debating the $227 billion budget proposal Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week.

In a break with the normally slow-moving process that drags out for months, budget committees in both the Assembly and state Senate convened this week to review the governor's spending plan, which includes immediate financial relief to families and businesses hard hit by the pandemic.

Newsom and lawmakers are aiming to send out immediate relief funding by the end of January, ahead of when the majority of the budget will be implemented in July.

During a meeting of the Assembly Budget Committee on Monday, Chair Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, said much of what Newsom proposed matches up with the Assembly's budget priorities.

"We also wanted to have an adequate response to COVID-19 to ensure that there were investments in public health infrastructure, vaccine distribution, as well as safe reopening of schools," Ting said.

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CA Legislators Will Return To Flurry of Major Pandemic Response Votes

Publication: San Francisco Chronicle

California legislators who return to work Monday will quickly be asked to vote on a flurry of high-profile spending measures to confront the worsening toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

At the top of their agenda: find a way to reopen schools for millions of students who have been out of the classroom since March, provide cash payments to low-income families, distribute COVID-19 vaccines more quickly, and extend an eviction moratorium.

Ostensibly, legislators and Gov. Gavin Newsom agree on the broad strokes of the budget proposal he released Friday, which includes a $5 billion “immediate action” plan he wants approved within weeks.

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Cash payments: Newsom is pushing lawmakers to swiftly approve one-time $600 direct payments to low-income people, an effort designed in part to help keep families housed. The payments would cost $2.4 billion.

Checks would be sent to taxpayers who received the state’s earned income tax credit for the working poor, typically those who earn $30,000 or less. Newsom said payments could go out within weeks.

Assembly member Phil Ting, the San Francisco Democrat who chairs the budget committee, said there’s broad support for such payments.

“If we don’t do it now, we run the risk of having a greater catastrophe down the road,” Ting said. “A little bit of money today will help significantly tomorrow.”

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Ting Statement On Governor’s Budget Release

Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, released the statement below following Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2021-22 budget release:

“I’m optimistic we will reach the light at the end of the tunnel later this year, as vaccination rates increase. Until then, we must continue to stabilize Californians and small businesses struggling during these unpredictable times.  We can accomplish that by maintaining the programs and services they need, while also forging a path to economic recovery. I’m glad to see several of the Governor’s priorities are similar to those included in the Assembly Budget Blueprint, Preserve | Respond | Protect | Recover, such as:

  • Stabilization of critical programs and services: Retain reserves and restoration of past cuts
  • Persistent COVID-19 response: Continued investment in public health infrastructure, including vaccine distribution, and safe reopening of schools
  • Support For Working Families: More funding to head off homelessness and expand assistance programs, and increased refund amounts for all California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC) filers
  • Economic Recovery: Prevent evictions and support mom-and-pop landlords, and invest in retraining programs for laid off workers and infrastructure strategies to prevent wildfires and stimulate green jobs while benefiting low-income communities

I’m ready to get to work, crafting a responsible plan that successfully navigates the state through the pandemic and helps us emerge stronger. We must also prepare of any more uncertainty and shore up reserves. Hearings will begin next week to give the public opportunities to weigh in, as we consider early action and shape the Governor’s plan into a final state budget before the June 15th deadline. Together, we will make sure people can rely on their government to get them through a crisis and lead the way to brighter days. ”

More information about the Preserve | Respond | Protect | Recover Budget Blueprint can be found here.

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What a Democratic Senate Means For CA: $2,000 Payments, Budget Relief Likely

Publication: San Francisco Chronicle

When sanity returns to Washington and Donald Trump’s insurrectionists are defeated, Democrats will control the Senate along with the House and White House — which could lead to new financial help for California governments and Californians.

Although it’s unclear how the riots that temporarily prevented Congress from confirming Joe Biden’s victory as president Wednesday will play out in the long run, it’s clear that Democrats will have more ability to pass legislation than at any time since Barack Obama’s first term.

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“It means everything for California,” said Assembly Member Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, chair of the Assembly budget committee. “Instead of an administration that we’re fighting every day, we have one that we can work with.”

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UCSF Agrees To Build More Than 1,200 Homes As Huge Parnassus Project Moves Forward

Publication: KTVU/Fox 2 Bay Area

UCSF and the city of San Francisco have reached an agreement on a project to improve housing, transit and jobs programs as part of its plan to expand and update its Parnassus Heights campus. 

The proposed package includes 1,263 new houses for the UCSF workforce, with 40 percent of all new and existing homes designated as affordable units. The boost also includes $20 million in transportation improvements and a 30 percent target for local hires in construction and permanent entry-level jobs.  

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"From the 1906 earthquake to the HIV epidemic to COVID-19, UCSF has been a crucial player in providing healthcare, training programs and research that are recognized around the world," Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) said in a release.  "The Parnassus Heights project makes certain this important work and legacy will continue. The new agreement is a shining example of how community investment can be more inclusive." 

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Bills Championed by Ting Become State Law on January 1

Bills Championed by Ting  Become State Law on January 1Even in a year when COVID-19 added constraints to the legislative process, Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) still had a successful 2020 with a number of bills taking effect on January 1, 2021, including:

           Economic Stimulus

                       AB 841 – Creates good paying green jobs to help CA’s economic recovery by:

  • Temporarily redirecting unspent energy efficiency funds to help schools upgrade their HVAC systems to improve air flow, helping to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in classrooms; new grant program can also be used to upgrade old pipes that potentially leech lead into drinking water; priority given to applications from campuses in low-income communities
  • Requiring the California Public Utilities Commission to act on its years-long application backlog of electric vehicle charging stations; faster approvals will get more people back to work

Criminal Justice Reform

AB 3234 – Allows judges to place first-time misdemeanor offenders into a diversion program; also modifies the Elderly Parole Program, so those aged 50 or above who have served a minimum of 20 years and don’t pose a public safety risk are eligible for a hearing to determine possible release

            Housing Supply

AB 3182 – Prevents homeowners associations from completely banning rental units (including Accessory Dwelling Units); permits limiting rentals to 25% of a community’s total units, so they still qualify for federal loans and insurance          

Environment

SB 212 with Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and Assemblymember Adam Gray (2018) – Establishes a statewide take-back program for unwanted medication and needles with the help of the pharmaceutical industry. CalRecycle will be issuing regulations soon.

As with all urgency bills, Ting’s bill to help local jurisdictions address homelessness, AB 2553, took immediate effect upon the Governor’s signature in September. It grants city and county leaders the authority to temporarily suspend regulations in order to expedite the construction of emergency shelters and safe overnight parking areas.

In addition, ACR 165, designating a portion of State Route 35 in Daly City as the “Alice Peña Bulos Memorial Highway” did not require the Governor’s signature. The resolution’s passage in both houses this summer paved the way for supporters to raise private money for road signs honoring the local Filipina activist.

Finally, AB 793, the landmark law requiring manufacturers to include recycled materials in plastic CRV bottles, begins in 2022. Beverage containers must have at least 15% minimum recycled content in the first year, eventually reaching 50% by 2030 - the highest standard in the world.

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CA Legislators Aim to Reopen Schools in March, Teachers Unions Disagree

Publication: Spectrum Television News / Los Angeles

California teachers unions and state legislators are at odds over when students should return to the classroom after a Democratic bill was introduced that would force schools to reopen in the spring.

Toby Boyd, the President of the California Teachers Association, said he responds to hundreds of emails every week from concerned parents ever since the pandemic hit.

“We understand the importance of getting our students back into the classroom and having them there, but we have to do it safe and that’s our number one concern,” Boyd said.

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This December, California legislators proposed Assembly Bill 10, a bill to reopen schools as early as March. However, Boyd believes this date is too soon to be letting children and staff back into the classroom.

“Look at the numbers that we have of infections, the ICU rates, the beds that are not available, the hospitalization, the deaths,” Boyd explained.

Assemblymember Phil Ting is one of the main authors of the bill and is also a parent himself. He says he understands the stress of distance learning that millions of families are facing across the state.

“I just got finished with my parent teacher conferences. The teachers are working extremely hard, but they definitely let us know as parents that they are not going to be able to get through all the material that they normally would in a year,” Ting said.

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California, Hard-Pressed Cities Lose in COVID Stimulus Deal As Aid Is Left Out

Publication: San Francisco Chronicle

A $900 billion coronavirus aid package that Congress passed Monday includes no dedicated money for state or local governments, undercutting hopes that California and many of its cities would be able to close growing budget gaps without major cuts.

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Assembly member Phil Ting, the San Francisco Democrat who chairs the Assembly budget committee, said it was unbelievable that the federal government was not doing everything possible to prevent states and cities from sinking deeper into economic crises.

“State and local governments are the ones primarily providing services to people. During a pandemic, people are relying on their government more than ever before,” Ting said. “The federal government’s responsibility is to be a social safety net during a crisis. That’s why they can borrow money.”

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Yet without new federal aid, California has fewer options for using its $26 billion windfall, much of which must be socked away to replenish state reserve accounts, Ting said.

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Coronavirus Wipes Away Recent Wage Gains For Many California Workers, Report Finds

Publication: CalMatters

In the five years before the pandemic, low-income Californians had begun to see substantial wage gains, chipping away at the income inequality gap between California’s haves and have-nots that has widened over the past 40 years. But the coronavirus pandemic is “likely stripping away many of these gains,” researchers at the Public Policy Institute of California found in a new report.

The current coronavirus-induced recession has hit low-income workers the hardest, while higher income workers, largely able to work from home, have escaped relatively unscathed. And those acute job losses among low-wage workers — particularly African Americans, Latinos, workers without college degrees and women — have stayed worryingly high through the fall, the researchers found. 

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Last week, Assemblymember Phil Ting, a San Francisco Democrat who chairs the budget committee, announced his priorities for the session. They included transitional kindergarten for all 4-year-olds, more financial aid for college students, more money for low-income families through the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit, and making parents who don’t work eligible for the state’s Young Child Tax Credit of up to $1,000.

“Our major priority is making sure we do everything to get money into the pockets of the most vulnerable Californians,” Ting said. “So many Californians are struggling. They’re on the brink of homelessness.”

California Unveils New Budget Blueprint For 2021-2022 Fiscal Year

Publication: KSRO/Sonoma County NewsTalk Radio

A new state budget blueprint has been released for the 2021-22 fiscal year centered around restoring previous cuts while also providing a lifeline for Californians impacted by the pandemic. Assemblyman Phil Ting, Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, says many cuts were the result of the federal government not providing additional funding.He says other priorities include preparing for future economic downturns and providing targeted stimulus to help rebuild the economy. Listen here