Senate Offers Realignment Proposal

At a press conference earlier today, Senate pro Tem Darrell Steinberg released a sweeping proposal that would shift additional program responsibility and dollars from the state to county governments. Done right, we’re very supportive of the concept of realignment. However, as with all things budget related, the devil is in the details. First, successfully realigning program responsibility needs to match “real” money with “real” program costs. Second, it should build on core program capacities and relationships. Third, it should be aimed at delivering quality services in a cost-effective manner.

Based on the “top line” description released by the Senate this morning, it includes a number of promising elements. At least two issues, however, are cause for immediate concern:

  • The proposal would shift all CalWORKs child care from the state to counties beginning in the upcoming fiscal year. This is potentially problematic for a number of reasons, including the fact that counties are not currently involved in the administration of large parts of the CalWORKs child care system. This means that they do not have the contracting relationships and systems in place to insure that quality standards are met and federal access and matching requirements are fulfilled, among other challenges. We’re not suggesting that child care should be “off the table,” but a successful realignment of responsibility would entail careful planning and sufficient lead time to ensure that the transition is seamless for both the families and providers that rely on the current system.
  • Our second immediate concern is that the proposal scores $500 million of county savings from the implementation of federal health reform beginning in 2013-14. We’re concerned that these savings may be somewhat illusory, given that counties will retain responsibility for providing care to those who will not be covered through the new federal law and the fact that the expansion of coverage provided under federal law will entail a significant “ramp up” period to reach full implementation. While we have high hopes for health reform, the tough work of ensuring that it works and works well for all Californians has just begun and it may be premature to transfer real program costs to counties in return for the promised but as yet unrealized savings from a yet to be implemented new federal law.

As additional details become available, the CBP will analyze the Senate and other major budget proposals, as well as update the side-by-side comparison of major budget proposals released last week here.

— Jean Ross

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