Budget proposal would seize money from proven local children’s programs with devastating impacts on health and homeless services.
IRVINE, CA –Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to take millions of dollars from programs and services that assist local health and education programs for young children and families contradicts the Governor’s pledge to realign government services, allowing decision making and accountability at the local level.
Local health and homeless prevention organizations are in a better position than Sacramento politicians to understand the local needs and how to invest resources to meet those needs, such as investments in public health nurses, dental care, community clinics, medical specialists, and support to families that have lost their homes due to the crippling recession.
“County commissions are interested in working with the Governor as a partner in the economic crisis,” said Orange County Supervisor Bill Campbell, chairman of the Commission, “The Orange County Children and Families Commission has proven to be fiscally responsible, and has weathered the economic downturn by anticipating declining revenue and adhering to a prudent long-term financial plan. The organizations we fund address the critical needs of young children and have proven program outcomes. I believe the people will continue to support local control.”
While the State’s $25 billion budget deficit is a serious problem that requires tough decisions and sacrifice, the voters should be made fully aware of the impacts of the Governor’s proposal to divert local Proposition 10 funds. The Governor’s proposed re-allocation of $1 billion in state and local Proposition 10 fund balances to the state General Fund, and the possible diversion of 50 percent of future revenue streams, would reduce or eliminate local health and homeless programs in Orange County.
Last fiscal year, the Children and Families Commission invested more than $38 million to support more than 1,000 workforce positions throughout the county. For example, the Commission currently funds almost half of the public health nurses working in Orange County. The Commission also invested more than $13.3 million, funding 305 positions in 26 school districts. Programs and services supported by the Commission and its community partners are making critical inroads in ensuring that OrangeCounty’s youngest children have access to health services and other programs that prepare them to enter school healthy and ready to learn. Programs cover a wide spectrum of vital areas, from community health clinics and pediatric dental services, to School Readiness Nurses and early literacy programs, to homeless prevention efforts and science and math preparedness.
As just one example of the positive impacts the Commission’s efforts are having, last week the Commission received an update on the partnership with Mercy House for the Armory Redirection Program that enables families with small children to be relocated from the Cold Weather Emergency Armory to more suitable temporary shelters. To date, no eligible family has spent a night in the Armory. The Commission’s investment in homeless services supported 207 families last year with children under 5 years of age.
The impact of the Governor’s budget proposal on critical children’s medical services is particularly drastic. “The Commission invested in the early identification and treatment of autism to help prepare children for school and life,” said Dr. Joseph H. Donnelly, Director of For OCKids, the only comprehensive autism clinic in Orange County. “Without Proposition 10, we could lose up to 70 percent of our funding and would have to shut down. The ripple effect would include increased costs to school districts when undiagnosed and untreated children begin school; and increased costs to the social services system when these same children are unable to graduate and hold jobs as adults. The cost to the children themselves and their families would be devastating.”
Since approving Proposition 10 in 1998, California voters have turned back every attempt to repeal or redirect the initiative. The Legislature’s attempt to divert Proposition 10 money to the state general fund was overwhelmingly rejected by California voters in May 2009.
In 2000, voters rejected repealing Proposition 10 by a lopsided margin. It is clear that California voters oppose the hijacking of Proposition 10 funds and support having revenues for programs and services for young children administered locally through county (First 5) Children and Families Commissions, official said.
The Governor’s proposal to use $1 billion in Proposition 10 funds to fund Medi-Cal services for children through age 5 is also concerning since tobacco tax revenue is declining. There is nothing new about this point: As fewer people smoke, less tobacco is purchased. The Commission has seen a 20% drop in annual revenues since 1999, the year the program began. The Commission proactively plans for this declining revenue through its 5-Year Long Range Financial Plan. Medi-Cal caseloads continue to rise putting additional strains on resources. Relying on a declining revenue source, such as Proposition 10 funds, is not a sustainable or prudent alternative.
The Governor proposes to use “Proposition 10 Reserves” and relies on an old myth that claims the county commissions have more than $2 billion in reserves. OrangeCounty has encumbered agreements and specific funding commitments that cover most of the fund balances, including multi-year funding of critical dental and medical services and school nurses at every school district in the county.
About the Children and Families Commission of Orange County
The Children and Families Commission of Orange County oversees the allocation of funds from Proposition 10, which added a 50-cent tax on tobacco products sold in California. Funds help pay for education, health care and child development programs for children from the prenatal stage to age 5 and their families. The Commission’s goal is to ensure all children are healthy and ready to learn when they enter school. For more information, please visit www.first5oc.org.