Policy Talk: Budget Reform 2012

The San Francisco Foundation’s public policy agenda weaves through the work we do to support long-term change in the Bay Area. On Tuesday, January 24, we launched a conversation about state budget policy through a convening of regional policy experts and advocates called “Budget Reform 2012: Voter Education and Mobilization to Shape a More Equitable Economy.”

Mark Cloutier, the Foundation’s director for public policy, community health, and civic engagement, opened by talking about TSFF’s commitment to a public policy agenda targeting issues of good governance and budgeting. Leading into the 2012 elections, the Foundation’s policy work is supporting efforts to cushion the impact of state budget cuts on critical health and social programs.

Then we heard from Jean Ross (formerly of the California Budget Project), who gave an insightful overview and analysis of the state budget. She noted that while the budget shortfall of $9 billion is less than the previous year, cuts to programs that affect low-income communities will still need to be made. Programs that potentially face deep reductions are childcare, education, MediCal, CalWORKS, and Cal Grants. Ross also described three proposed tax measures that would partially address the problem by raising additional revenue. One or all of the tax hike proposals may appear on the ballot in November, but Ross predicted at most two might qualify.

Participating grantees gave their perspectives from the community. Nonprofit leaders in the room were most concerned about lessening the impact of budget cuts on low-income communities and communities of color. In addition to focusing on the short-term debate over taxes and revenue, community organizations want to keep an eye on a long-term strategy, such as budget reforms that support job creation and the livelihoods of those most affected by cuts to state services.

To continue the conversation about a progressive state budget agenda, TSFF will reconvene the public policy grantees and leaders in the spring. With so much at stake this year, the Foundation’s civic engagement strategies also target educating and mobilizing voters in the run-up to the 2012 elections.

Learn more about our Public Policy and Civic Engagement program here.