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WFP-TH-calbudget1.jpg Office of Gov. Gavin Newsom
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks about disaster readiness during an event in Colfax, Calif., on Jan. 8. Emergency readiness would get a boost in his first proposed budget.

Newsom's budget boosts higher ed, disaster readiness

Governor's first proposal promises $200 million to CalFire, $1.4 billion for colleges and universities.

The first budget proposal of California Gov. Gavin Newsom's tenure is a $209 billion document that includes $1.4 billion for the state-run colleges and universities that work with agriculture while also emphasizing emergency readiness, response and recovery.

Newsom promises free attendance for first-time, full-time students at community colleges for two years and identifies $942 million in ongoing funding to support increased enrollment, improved time to degree and a tuition freeze, according to a news release. Segments serving a higher number of students receive a greater amount of the increased resources.

His emergency response package would include what he calls a sizable investment in forest management—$214 million—to increase fire prevention and complete additional fuel reduction projects, including increased prescribed fire crews.

Here is his planned breakdown in higher-ed funding:

  • University of California—$240 million ongoing General Fund for operational costs; student success, student hunger and housing initiatives; ongoing support for graduate medical education; and mental health resources. The Budget also includes $138 million one-time General Fund for deferred maintenance.
  • California State University—$300 million ongoing General Fund for operational costs, increased enrollment, and for continued progress toward the equity goals of the Graduation Initiative 2025. The Budget also includes $247 million in one-time General Fund for the expansion of on-campus child care facilities serving students and deferred maintenance, and $15 million in one-time General Fund for student hunger and housing initiatives.
  • Community Colleges—$402 million ongoing Proposition 98 General Fund, including a 3.46-percent COLA, enrollment growth, legal services for undocumented students and families, and providing a second year of free tuition.

Emergency preparedness

Meanwhile, the blueprint proposes to continue to support local areas devastated by the 2018 wildfires by backfilling wildfire-related property tax losses and waiving the local share of cost for debris removal, according to the release. Funding for impacted schools is also backfilled.

Newsom pledges $200 million from the general fund to augment the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's firefighting capabilities by adding 13 additional year-round engines, replacing what he describes as Vietnam War-era helicopters, deploying new large air tankers, and investing in technology and data analytics that will support CalFire's incident command in developing more effective initial fire suppression strategies. 

The ledger would continue an ongoing $25 million allocation for pre-positioning local government fire engines to support the state’s critical mutual aid system, according to the release. The budget also includes $60 million in one-time money to jump-start upgrades to the 911 system, including an overhaul to the existing fee that will sustainably fund a modern, reliable system. The governor also wants $16.3 million in the general fund to finish the build-out of the California Earthquake Early Warning System, the release states.

To help local governments and individuals be more prepared for emergencies, the budget proposes a one-time infusion of $50 million from the general fund for local grants and to immediately begin a comprehensive, statewide education campaign on disaster preparedness and safety.

Immigrants and other priorities

Farmworkers may take note of a line in the budget that would provide $25 million from the general fund, including $5 million for this fiscal year, for an immigration rapid-response program to assist qualified community-based organizations and non-profit entities in providing services. Newsom also proposes $75 million in ongoing general-fund contributions for other immigration-related efforts, including helping applicants seeking Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; naturalization; and other remedies, according to the release.

Among other prioriteis, Newsom also proposes what he calls the largest per-pupil expenditure for elementary, junior high and high school in history, funding for universal preschool and expansion of the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit for working families.

 The full summary of the governor’s budget proposal can be found at www.ebudget.ca.gov.

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