Guest Blogger Steven Amick: Proposition 49 Survives the First Year of the Post-Schwarzenegger Eraby Ursula Helminski
As most members of the afterschool advocacy community already know, the citizens of California passed Proposition 49 in November of 2002. This voter initiative did two important things: it augmented the state Legislature’s investment in afterschool programs from $121 million to a guaranteed, annual General Fund appropriation of $550 million (contingent upon a financial trigger which was reached in FY2006-07), and it gave California voters the sole authority to reduce that appropriation (except under extremely rare circumstances). Proposition 49’s champion was Arnold Schwarzenegger, who parlayed the political victory into a successful campaign for governor the following year.
Just two years after Proposition 49 was triggered, however, the nation suffered an economic downturn that reduced California’s annual expenditures from $102.3 billion in 2007-08 to $84.5 billion in 2009-10. As lawmakers sought to close unprecedented budget gaps heading into the 2008-09 fiscal year, the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) recommended giving voters the opportunity to repeal Proposition 49. The Legislature passed a budget trailer bill (by a cumulative vote of 98 to 12, with 10 abstentions) to put such an initiative on the November 2008 ballot, but it was vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger. The LAO made similar recommendations over the next two years, and while the Budget Conference Committee approved a repeal measure in 2010, no such bill ever reached the floor.
When Gov. Schwarzenegger termed out of office in January of 2011, there was grave concern in the California afterschool community that the Legislature, now facing a $24 billion, 18-month budget gap through June 2012, would once again follow the LAO’s recommendation to put a repeal initiative before the voters; this time without the certainty of an executive veto. The new Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a plan to close the gap through a balance of spending reductions and the extension of a temporary 1% sales tax increase (approved in 2009) that was scheduled to sunset on June 30, 2011.
In November of 2010, California voters passed two initiatives critical to the budget process. Proposition 25 gave the Democratically-controlled Legislature the power to pass a budget with a simple majority. However, Proposition 26 required super-majority approval to enact any revenue solutions. Gov. Brown’s inability to persuade even one Republican to support his balanced plan left the Democratic Caucus with the lone option of an “all cuts” budget. The Legislature was forced to make deep and painful cuts to a variety of services, including reductions of over $300 million to subsidized child care programs, but K-12 education received level funding from the previous year and Proposition 49 remained intact.
However, the 2011-12 budget assumes $4 billion in additional tax revenue, based on higher than projected earnings during the spring of 2011. If these additional funds do not materialize, K-12 education could face as much as $1.5 billion in additional cuts, potentially reducing the required number of school days to 168 (twelve less than the traditional school year). These cuts could potentially trigger proportional reductions to Proposition 49, if additional fiscal conditions are met.
Because a repeal of Proposition 49 requires voter approval, it was less vulnerable during a non-election year. With two scheduled elections in 2012, the issue may be raised again. Additionally, a statewide evaluation of the After School Education and Safety Program (funded by Proposition 49) is being conducted, the results of which are due to be made available this October. If the outcomes are less than positive, afterschool programs could find themselves in the crosshairs. For those reasons, among others, several key stakeholders in the California afterschool community have coalesced to form the California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance, or CA3. The purpose of the organization is to protect and strengthen the state’s publicly-funded afterschool programs. To learn more visit www.ca3advocacy.org.
Steven Amick is an Afterschool Ambassador Emeritus and Director of School District Partnerships for THINK Together, California's largest non-profit provider of publicly funded afterschool programs. The company is based in Santa Ana.