Government & Community Affairs

February Update

Stacy Corless

Stacy Corless

Director, Government & Community Affairs

State Budget 

As forecast late last year, the state budget went from record surplus to revenue shortfall in 2023.  Governor Newsom released his administration’s $291 billion budget proposal on January 10 with a plan to close the estimated $22.5 billion budget gap. The budget proposal does not tap into the state’s reserves, and unfortunately does include cuts to programs and initiatives that are important to SBC and our region. Many of the proposed cuts or delays in funding are tied or “triggered” to revenue availability in 2024-25; these trigger restorations will be pulled or denied prior to January 10, 2024 predicated on findings made by California Department of Finance regarding the state’s budget condition and if California has sufficient revenues to underwrite and restore funding. Some of the proposed cuts that impact the Sierra, however, do not qualify for trigger restoration and will go through if the Governor’s current budget is passed, regardless of revenue projections.

SBC priorities identified in the last report impacted by proposed cuts include:

  • $35 Million for projects and programs that support Wildfire and Forest Resiliency
  • $440 Million for Climate Resilience projects and programs
  • $263 Million for projects and programs that support Nature Based Solutions
  • $79 Million Cascades and High Sierra Upper Watersheds Program – Wildlife Conservation Board
  • $12.5 Million Local Nature-based Solutions – California Conservation Corps
  • $25 Million extreme heat and Community Resilience Program – Governor’s Office of Planning and Research
  • $29 Million Museums Grant Program – California Natural Resources Agency
  • $35 Million Recreational Trails and Greenways – California Natural Resources Agency
  • $25 Million Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation – Department of Conservation

The governor’s proposed 2023-24 budget includes $350 million in reductions related to housing programs that were included in the 2022 Budget Act. These reductions are part of the cuts that may be restored if the “trigger” of sufficient revenue is available in January 2024.

Though Forest management and wildfire mitigation funding was mostly spared from cuts, allocations in last year’s budget were insufficient to meet the state’s wildfire and forest resilience goals. SBC continues to work on a longer-term campaign to secure sustained funding for fire. 

Natural resources and climate programs bear an outsized burden in the proposed budget, and SBC and partners will advocate for maintaining investments the state has made for climate and wildfire resilience as the budget process continues. 

The governor’s proposal is just the start of a months-long budget process and negotiations between the administration and legislature on a final budget package. Some next steps along the budget journey include legislative committee oversight hearings on specific programs (such as 30×30) and agencies to determine budgetary needs and develop legislative budget proposals. 

Bond Measure Discussions

In his presentation of the 2023-24 budget, Governor Newsom mentioned the possibility of a bond measure to backfill some of the proposed cuts to natural resources and climate programs. SBC and its partners are engaged in these discussions. By all accounts, multiple legislative proposals could be developed for a bond measure ranging anywhere from $7 to $12 billion. 

Legislative Update

The legislative session started with significant turnover–approximately 30% of this session’s members are new legislators , including a new state senator for much of the Sierra, Marie Alvardo-Gil. Outreach and education are more important than ever this year, and SBC has planned a robust schedule of advocacy, awareness and relationship building. Steve and Stacy started the year off with a series of meetings in Sacramento to discuss the budget, bond proposals and generally to introduce SBC and our priorities to legislators and committee staff. 

Stacy Corless meets with Sen. Alvarado-Gil
Stacy Corless and Sen. Alvarado-Gil

Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force

SBC continues to actively support and engage in the work of the state’s wildfire task force.

SBC President Steve Frisch and Government Affairs Director Stacy Corless participated in a recent convening of the task force in Southern California, along with some 200 state leaders and regional stakeholders. Though “forest” management isn’t necessarily the primary concern for the southland, creating fire resilient communities and landscapes are a priority and including

Southern California considerations in the  wildfire resilience funding campaign is key to solving the state’s crisis. View details of the meeting at wildfiretaskforce.org.

On a tour of conserved lands in the Santa Monica mountains that took place as part of the task force meeting, Stacy was able to see (and be inspired by) the alignment of many state initiatives that SBC supports, including wildfire and climate resilience, in on-the-ground projects ranging from the restoration of native oak landscapes for fire protection to building the world’s largest wildlife crossing. 

The same week in Los Angeles, the National Wildlife Federation and California Natural Resources Agency announced the creation of a public-private partnership to raise funds for more wildlife crossings 

Mountain Housing Council in Sacramento

On February 8th, SBC hosted a Mountain Housing Council day in the capitol attended by a team of 6 MHC partners. The group met with legislators and legislative staffers to present our policy platform. The legislators and staffers were widely receptive to the materials presented and the team left feeling optimistic about their policy goals for this year. The team will head back to the state capitol on March 16th with two teams of MHC members to continue to advocate for their legislative goals.

Steve Frisch, Stacy Corless, and Assemblymember Jim Patterson
Steve Frisch, Stacy Corless, and Assemblymember Jim Patterson

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