Local State Parks miss out on funding bonanza. Where is Woolsey on that list?
Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2020-21 California budget is a formidable $222 billion, and bursting with funding for homelessness, housing, education, and climate change, while wildfire preparedness, prevention, and response receive more modest increases.
In the proposed budget, parks and conservation continue to be shortchanged, lagging behind other funding projects despite a backlog of deferred maintenance, increased use and demand.
“California’s economic growth has fueled the nation’s economy, which has been growing for a record 126 months,” the budget report states.
Newsom, who has called homelessness “the issue that defines our times,” is requesting $1.4 billion for homeless services. A $750 million initial investment would be used to create the California Access to Housing and Services Fund, with a focus on transitioning “unsheltered individuals off the streets, by creating a structure for developing affordable housing units, supplementing and augmenting rental subsidies, and stabilizing board-and-care homes.”
Proposed programs include emergency rental assistance, subsidized board-and-care facilities for individuals with mental health issues, and a plan to use “surplus state property” for emergency housing.
A large part of the 2020 budget is allocated to housing issues, with $500 million for the state’s housing tax credit program and housing development on “excess state lands.” The budget also includes $331 million to provide “borrower relief and support housing counselors or other legal aid agencies in representing homeowners and renters in housing-related matters.”
The Governor is proposing more than $1 billion for emergency services, but much of the funding is focused on Northern California.
The budget includes $120 million for Northern California-based CAL FIRE to fund “an immediate resource pool to staff additional engines during late fall, winter, and early spring, should conditions require an increase to the existing 65 year-round engines; and pre-position firefighting personnel in high-risk areas of the state by adding a fourth firefighter on a portion of CAL FIRE engines, as fire conditions dictate.”
Relief staffing will directly benefit employee health and wellness by providing a larger resource pool for the new normal fire conditions, mitigating long periods of fighting fires without respite.
There is also permanent funding to pre-position additional firefighting personnel on a portion of engines or staff engines earlier in the spring or later in the fall and winter, as fire conditions warrant, rather than continuing the current practice of adding additional firefighter surge capacity on a year‐to‐year basis.
An additional $9 million will be allocated to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), CAL FIRE, the Military Department, and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to create a Wildfire Forecast Center. $26.8 million from the General Fund will be allocated to implement AB 38, a $100 million joint CAL FIRE and Cal OES program to develop a home-hardening pilot program.
$9.4 million will be used to fund 50 positions at Cal OES to enhance the agency’s ability to “anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.”
STATE PARKS FUNDING
California’s state parks receive $65.1 million to advance the Parks for All initiative, but most of the funding for acquisitions is earmarked for the northern half of the state.
The last new California State Park was added in 2009, when the U.S. Army’s Fort Ord property become Fort Ord Dunes State Park. The inclusion of $20 million in the 2020 budget “to create a new state park” has generated considerable speculation, but the odds are high the park the Governor has in mind is a 51,000-acre ranch in the East San Francisco Bay area, between Livermore and San Jose.
Money for park acquisition is limited to $4.6 million, with $8.7 million in Proposition 68 funds allocated to expand access to state parks in urban areas and make other improvements to parks that serve disadvantaged communities.
The Natural Resources Agency, which consists of 26 departments, boards, commissions and conservancies responsible for administering programs to conserve, restore, and enhance the natural, historical, and cultural resources of California, receives $6.7 billion ($3.8 billion General Fund, $1.8 billion special funds, and $1.1 billion bond funds) this year.
The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) receives $362,000 in the 2020 budget, just a $10,000 increase from the previous year, while its sister agency, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) receives $120,000—the same amount allocated in 2019.
No other money is specifically allocated for state parks in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, despite extensive damage caused by the Woolsey Fire in 2018.
OTHER ALLOCATIONS OF NOTE
Improving Access for Underserved Populations will receive $20 million to establish an Outdoor Equity Grants Program as part of AB 209. $11.8 million is allocated to “expand both technological and physical access to parks, as well as culturally inclusive enhancements to park programming and interpretive exhibits.”
On the environmental front, the Governor proposes $350,000 in one-time funding to help “accelerate the transition of the California agricultural industry to safer, more sustainable pest management solutions.” The work group created by the funding “will expand its focus to system-wide approaches and will provide recommendations for a comprehensive approach to safer alternatives for pest management.”
Another one-time allocation of $50 million will go to the University of California Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program to develop a grant program for animal shelters, with a five-year goal of helping local communities achieve the state’s longstanding policy goal that no adoptable or treatable dog or cat is euthanized.
The proposed budget maintains $900 million in the Safety Net Reserve, and also sets aside $110 million more for the Public School System Stabilization Account, bringing its total balance to $487 million. Another $1.6 billion is reserved for the Special Fund for Economic Uncertainties to address emergencies and other unforeseen events. Overall, the Budget has $21 billion set aside in reserves.