Thursday, January 7, 2016

Governor Brown released his 2016-17 state budget proposal - one that embraces and builds upon California Community Colleges’ efforts to create a strong California workforce through responsive educational programs.

The Governor's budget proposal has five major themes: maintaining fiscal balance; continued investment in education; repairing the state’s infrastructure; counteracting the effects of poverty; and confronting climate change.

Economic Context:
The January budget proposal reflects continued improvement in the state's economy with recognition and concern with appropriating one-time funds for ongoing purposes. Although the unemployment rate has fallen below 6 percent for the first time since 2007, the Governor advises extreme caution despite improved fiscal conditions. The current economic recovery has reached a 7-year mark; most recoveries only last five years before a downturn.  As a result, Governor Brown emphasizes that the state’s primary goal should be to fully-fund the Rainy Day Fund.

Proposition 98 and Community Colleges:
A recovering economy has increased the Proposition 98 guarantee by $800 million in 2015-16 (current year) and by $2.4 billion in 2016-17, for a total Proposition 98 K-14 guarantee of $71.6 billion.  This growth offers colleges continued availability of one-time dollars, which the Governor proposes to spend on deferred maintenance, equipment, and projects that reduce utility costs and usage.

For community colleges, the Governor’s 2016-17 proposal provides over $400 million in new ongoing Proposition 98 resources, and approximately $380 million in one-time funds. One-time resources present an opportunity for strategic investments in curriculum development, technological infrastructure, acceleration of new or ongoing initiatives, and other measures to strengthen programs and support student success.

The Governor’s budget summary is available here. Below is a link to a chart by Lizette Navarette with the League’s Government Relations Office illustrating the major components of the proposed budget for community colleges: click here to view chart.

While few major policy changes were presented in the January budget proposal, workforce and basic skills reforms appear as high priorities – both consistent with legislative intentions. Although augmentations are not provided for Student Success and base funding per student, one message is clear, Governor Brown wants to see the programmatic reforms of the past few years implemented and embedded.

Overall, the Governor presents a pragmatic budget proposal that upholds the commitments to education while exercising restraint in light of an uncertain revenue future as the sales tax portion of Proposition 30 expires in December of this year. Such fiscal prudence will need to be practiced by community colleges as well to address STRS and PERS contribution costs estimated to increase by approximately $400 million annually by 2021. Though a needed investment in financial aid - particularly in the CalGrant Program - is absent from this budget, the Governor's proposal recognizes the indispensable role California's Community Colleges play in workforce development, higher education attainment for our citizens, and educational opportunity for all Californians.