Published on First 5 LA (http://www.first5la.org)
17 August 2011 - The state Legislature on Wednesday agreed to take $1 billion in funding from California's First 5 commissions - a controversial move that prevents voters from deciding whether Proposition 10 funds may be used to help fill the state's budget gap.
Both the state Assembly and Senate passed AB 99  with the two-thirds vote they say allows them to circumvent placing the fund grab on the ballot in June. The bill authorizes the redirection of $50 million from First 5 California, the state Proposition 10 Commission, and $950 million from First 5 county commissions, including First 5 LA, which stands to lose the most funding: $424 million, according to the State Department of Finance. Excluded from this requirement are county commissions receiving less than $600,000 in annual revenues from the Proposition 10 tobacco tax. The legislation, which is part of the state budget package, requires Gov. Jerry Brown's approval.
Legislators' approval of the funding grab could have dire consequences for children's programs supported by First 5 Commissions. Contrary to earlier assurances from the state Department of Finance that First 5 Commission contracts with grantees and other children's service providers would be honored, the bill approved by the Legislature directs Commissions to "disencumber existing obligations," or break contracts, as necessary in order to surrender their funds to state coffers. Attorneys for First 5 countycCommissions are reviewing the legality of the Legislature's actions.
The passage of AB 99 means one less item on a ballot that Brown hopes will include tax extensions needed to balance the state budget. Prior attempts to take First 5 funding were placed on ballots for voters to decide; the most recent effort, 2009's Proposition 1D , was rejected by a 66 to 34 percent margin.
Legislators contend that rerouting First 5 funds to the state could be accomplished without placing the issue on the ballot, provided the use of funding is consistent with Proposition 10's goal of ensuring early childhood development. Diverted Proposition 10 funding would be used by the state for children ages 0 to 5 enrolled in Medi-Cal.
As part of the budget package, lawmakers also approved billions of dollars in cuts to welfare, medical programs for low-income families, in-home care for the elderly and disabled and other services. In total, the cuts and funding redirections represent almost half of the 20-bill package that comprises the Legislature's plan to close an estimated $25.4 billion gap over the next 15 months. Once completed, the entire budget plan goes to Brown for his approval.
Los Angeles Times: Lawmakers Okay Billions in Program Cuts 
Tessa Charnofsky, MSW, MPA
Government Affairs Manager
First 5 LA
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