California’s Legislature this week approved a new $183 billion dollar State Budget and in the process established priorities that encompass “profound moral questions about who are we as a society, how we view our future and whether as a people we can look beyond our own self-interest to the interest of the larger society.” (In Search of the Common Good)
Lawmakers provided funds for abortion and to pay for the physician-assisted suicide of Medi-Cal patients at the same time they sought to help immigrants, assist the “working poor” and expand early childhood education. Some of the items the Conference is working on include:
Immigration – We are asking the Governor to support the legislature’s actions on immigration funding, which include a $45 million investment this year with commitments for the following two years as well. This funding will help community-based, non-profit organizations, like Catholic Charities of California, provide legal services for affirmative immigration-related programs, such as education, outreach, and application assistance for naturalization and will also allow for due process and legal representation in deportation proceedings and legal training for immigrant counsel.
Abortion Funding – We are requesting that the Governor line-item veto the public funding of Medi-Cal abortions in the budget. The funding is deceptively placed in various budget items related to “Women’s Health Services”, “Annual Contraceptive Coverage”, and the “Family PACT Program”. (See our Special Report on Funding the Abortion Industry.) Taxpayer funding of abortions for Medi-Cal patients puts the state in a one-sided role of expanding and promoting abortion on a state-wide level. If abortion is a “woman’s choice” then the state of California should not be taking sides by encouraging abortions, particularly within our poorest communities and amongst our most vulnerable populations. (Ask the Governor to veto abortion funding.)
End of Life - We are pleased to see that the Governor’s newly proposed budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year now includes $1.3 million for the implementation of a Palliative Care Services program for Medi-Cal recipients. The California Bishops were personally active in the issue and were pleased to assist many long-time advocacy groups in securing the funding.
However, we are requesting that the Governor eliminate the proposed funding for End-of-Life services for terminally-ill adult patients. According to recent estimates by the California Department of Health Care Services, this funding is slated to increase significantly in next year’s budget (2018-19). At a time when the state claims that it is too poor to fully fund health care for nearly 10 million people, not including our undocumented sisters and brothers, and poor women struggle to find providers to give them the most basic medical care, the state chooses to instead provide funding that would allow Medi-Cal recipients - some of the most vulnerable members of society - to end their lives.
Education - To address the statewide shortage of qualified teachers the Conference is advocating support for several items in the budget package: Utilize $4 million to attract STEM professionals/military into California’s classrooms, particularly within high-need communities; An additional $20 million to expand the teacher credentialing program for classified employees in the current budget; and $10 million in professional development funding for bilingual teachers, who are expected to be in serious short supply.
Also included in this budget package is vital funding that makes early childhood education and college more affordable for families in need. $7.9 million is proposed to reinstate 2,959 full-day state preschool slots for low income families. The Middle Class Scholarship Program would be kept alive for students at California’s two public university systems. In addition, the Legislature moved to maintain full funding for Cal Grants that are used at private colleges and universities.
Fighting Poverty - The State Legislature and the Governor took a huge step toward significantly expanding the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC), a proven anti-poverty measure to help working families. The budget extends the CalEITC to include self-employed workers and raises the income eligibility threshold to $22,360, helping an additional 134,000 low-income households. The Conference supports these increases.