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Policy Insights, the Budget Center’s annual conference, is the premier event for advocates, policymakers, researchers, and other leaders working to improve the lives of low- and middle-income Californians. The focus of our conference is fostering a discussion on how our state can broaden economic opportunity.

The following is the agenda and schedule for Policy Insights 2017, which was held on March 2 at the Sacramento Convention Center and attended by more than 350 people from around the state. This page includes links to presentations and handouts from the conference sessions as noted.


8:30-8:50 Registration and Continental Breakfast

9:00-9:15 Welcome and Overview

Introductory Remarks on the Post-Election Landscape for Budget and Policy Choices in California

  • Chris Hoene, Executive Director, California Budget & Policy Center

9:15-10:30 Morning Plenary

The Implications of Federal Budget and Policy Proposals for California

Three experts in federal and state policy discuss current and expected federal budget and policy proposals, their implications for California, and what it could mean for future policy.

  • Chris Hoene, Executive Director, California Budget & Policy Center
  • Nicholas Johnson, Senior Vice President for State Fiscal Policy, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
  • Kim S. Rueben, Senior Fellow, Project Director, State and Local Finance Initiative, Urban Institute
  • Moderator: John Myers, Sacramento Bureau Chief, Los Angeles Times

10:45-12:00 Morning Workshops (see “Workshops” below) 

12:15-1:45 Luncheon Plenary

Introductory Remarks

  • Paul Rosenstiel, Retired Managing Director, Public Finance Department, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company and Board Chair, California Budget & Policy Center

California Budget Prospects for 2017-18 and Beyond

The chairs of the Senate and Assembly Budget Committees in the California Legislature discuss current state budget and policy proposals and the issues these leaders expect will shape this year’s budget debate.

  • Senator Holly J. Mitchell, Chair, Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review
  • Assemblymember Phil Ting, Chair, Assembly Committee on Budget
  • Moderator: Marisa Lagos, Reporter, KQED

2:00-3:15 Afternoon Workshops (see “Workshops” below)

3:30-4:30: Afternoon Plenary

The Economics of Work-Life Conflict and How Policy Can Broaden Prosperity

One of the nation’s leading economists argues that resolving work-life conflicts is vital for easing the burden on individuals and families and ensuring our country’s economic stability.

  • Heather Boushey, Executive Director and Chief Economist, Washington Center for Equitable Growth; Author of Finding Time: The Economics of Work-Life Conflict
  • Moderator: Chris Hoene, Executive Director, California Budget & Policy Center

4:30-5:30: Reception


10:45-12:00 Morning Workshops

Envisioning Comprehensive Public Investment in Early Childhood Education and Well-Being

Young children have been the focus of several major recent proposals in California for increased public investment. Research shows that investments in early childhood education and young children’s well-being pay off in improved life outcomes, enabling children to more fully achieve their potential and contribute to the economy and their communities as adults. This workshop will feature leaders of current efforts to strengthen California’s existing programs as well as its long-term investments in early childhood education and other services and supports for young children. Panelists will discuss the California landscape of programs and services for young children, additional long-term investments that are needed, recent major proposals and initiatives for increasing public investment in young children, and how the new federal policy context might impact investments in early childhood.

  • Nina Buthee, Executive Director, California Child Development Administrators Association and Commissioner, Speaker’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education
  • Craig Cheslog, Vice President for California Policy and Advocacy, Common Sense Kids Action
  • Moira Kenney, Executive Director, First 5 Association of California | View Handouts
  • Moderator: Sara Kimberlin, Senior Policy Analyst, California Budget & Policy Center | View Slides

Health Care Reform in the Balance: What’s at Stake for California?

Among the many critical questions raised by the changing federal policy environment is what will become of the landmark health care reform law – the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – and the significant health coverage gains it helped make possible throughout California and across the US. President Trump and Republican leaders in Congress have vowed to repeal the ACA as well as to significantly limit federal support for Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) by shifting dollars into an annual federal block grant for states. If these changes were to become law, California could lose well over $20 billion in federal funding each year, jeopardizing affordable health care coverage for millions of low- and middle-income residents. This workshop will provide up-to-the-minute insights on both the ACA repeal and Medicaid block grant efforts. Our expert panel will discuss the impact on California – and its 58 counties – of an ACA repeal (full or partial) and a Medicaid block grant. Panelists also will explore how state policymakers and county leaders could choose to respond.

  • Edwin Park, Vice President for Health Policy, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities | View Slides  View Handouts
  • Farrah McDaid Ting, Health and Human Services Legislative Representative, California State Association of Counties
  • Anthony E. Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California | View Handouts
  • Moderator: Scott Graves, Director of Research, California Budget & Policy Center | View Slides

It’s Getting Hot in Here: Climate Change, Environmental Justice, and Public Policy in California 

Climate change disproportionately affects low-income communities and communities of color. California has taken a leadership role in addressing the underlying causes as well as the effects of climate change, and legislative advances in recent years have boosted funding for environmental justice efforts within these communities. However, there is much more to be done to enact policies that protect community health and well-being throughout the state, while President Trump and the Republican-led Congress could threaten the progress made in California. This workshop will discuss how climate change is an environmental justice issue, the strides taken in California, and the emerging federal threats to the progress made so far.ia.

  • Phoebe Seaton, Co-Founder and Co-Director, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability
  • Parin Shah, Senior Strategist, Asian Pacific Environmental Network | View Slides
  • Amy Vanderwarker, Co-Director, California Environmental Justice Alliance | View Slides
  • Madeline Wander, Senior Data Analyst, Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, University of Southern California | View Slides
  • Moderator: Steven Bliss, Director of Strategic Communications, California Budget & Policy Center

Universal Basic Income: Easy as Pie or Pie in the Sky?

Establishing a “universal basic income” – regularly providing direct cash payments to everyone, regardless of their economic circumstances – is an old idea that’s gaining renewed attention, particularly among Silicon Valley tech elite. Proponents view this idea as a simple solution to some of our nation’s most significant challenges, including growing economic insecurity stemming from changes in the job market and compounded by an inadequate public support system. But is providing a guaranteed minimum income for all people feasible? And is it the “right” answer to the economic challenges facing people with low and moderate incomes? Come to this workshop to learn whether and how a universal basic income could work and how this idea is being tested in California, as well as to discuss how providing a guaranteed income compares to alternative policies that aim to increase people’s economic security.

  • Sandhya Anantharaman, Data Scientist, Share Progress
  • Hilary Hoynes, Professor of Public Policy and Economics, Haas Distinguished Chair in Economic Disparities, Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley
  • Sean Kline, Director, San Francisco Office of Financial Empowerment
  • Moderator: Alissa Anderson, Senior Policy Analyst, California Budget & Policy Center

2:00-3:15 Afternoon Workshops

Aging With Dignity: Federal Threats to Older Adults’ Well-Being and What California Can Do About It

Many older Californians have difficulty making ends meet, and this problem is particularly acute among people of color and women due to longstanding racial and gender disparities in earnings and wealth. What’s more, the share of older Californians facing severe economic hardship could rise in coming years. People age 65 or above are the fastest-growing segment of the population, and some of the fastest-growing groups within this population tend to have fewer resources to provide security as they age. Compounding this challenge, older adults now face significant threats to their economic well-being with the prospect of federal policy changes to critical programs, including Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Social Security. This workshop will highlight the economic challenges facing many older Californians and consider how federal policy actions could affect them. Topics to be discussed include how possible changes to Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act could affect access to long-term services and supports as well as what potential cuts to federal income supports, such as SSI, could mean for older adults. This workshop will also highlight steps that state policymakers could take to help more Californians achieve and maintain economic security as they age.

  • Alissa Anderson, Senior Policy Analyst, California Budget & Policy Center | View Slides
  • Trinh Phan, Senior Staff Attorney, Justice in Aging | View Slides
  • Sarah S. Steenhausen, Senior Policy Advisor, The SCAN Foundation | View Slides

Communicating for Social Change in a Shifting Media Landscape and an “Alternative Facts” World

For any organization, group, or individual working to advance positive social change, connecting with core audiences is key to building awareness, engaging allies, and changing hearts and minds. Yet, the rules of the game have changed in recent years, with the rise of social media, the convergence of digital and traditional media, and, more recently, the growing issue of fake news and other threats to fact-based public deliberations. What does this all mean for how we communicate about the issues we care about and how the media covers the state and national policy landscapes? Our expert panel will bring a variety of perspectives into this discussion of the changing demands of, and promising strategies for, shaping the debate and communicating for social change.

  • Steven Bliss, Director of Strategic Communication, California Budget & Policy Center
  • Candice Francis, Communications Director, American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California
  • Marisa Lagos, Political Reporter, KQED
  • Bilen Mesfin Packwood, Founder and Principal, Change Consulting

The Future for English Learners After Proposition 58

English learners (ELs) account for more than one-fifth of all K-12 students in California’s public schools. Voter approval of Prop. 58 last November removed restrictions to bilingual programs that had been in place for nearly 20 years, affording parents and local school districts more choices in designing EL educational programs. The State Board of Education is currently debating rules for assessing and encouraging improved academic outcomes for ELs, which will be critical to helping a greater shae of California students to prepare for higher education and the workforce. This workshop will rreview how Prop. 58 changes local educational options and will discuss other key state policy decisions related to educating ELs.

  • Laura E. Hill, Senior Fellow, Public Policy Institute of California | View Slides
  • Laurie Olsen, Director, Sobrato Early Academic Language Initiative | View Slides
  • Shelly Spiegel-Coleman, Executive Director, Californians Together | View Slides  View Handouts
  • Moderator: Jonathan Kaplan, Senior Policy Analyst, California Budget & Policy Center

Current Practices and New Approaches for Reducing Incarceration in California

California’s criminal justice system has undergone sweeping transformations over the past generation. Following the passage of “tough on crime” laws in the 1980s and 1990s, rates of incarceration soared, resulting in a 2009 federal court order to reduce overcrowding in state prisons. Since then, state policymakers and voters have adopted a series of policy changes intended to reduce incarceration, invest in communities, and provide community-based alternatives to imprisonment. Despite these positive steps, the number of incarcerated adults remains high, and federal oversight of California’s prison system continues. This workshop will explore both current practices and new approaches for further reducing incarceration in California as well as promoting better outcomes for individuals involved with the criminal justice system. The discussion will focus in part on state-level policies, such as the pending implementation of voter-approved Proposition 57, which will reduce the amount of time that many people spend in prison. Panelists also will highlight local practices that move away from incarceration-driven strategies and promote new safety priorities that address the needs of the most vulnerable Californians.

  • Marisa Arrona, Local Safety Soulutions Director, Californians for Safety and Justice | View Slides
  • Mark J. Bonini, Chief Probation Officer for Amador County, Immediate Past President, Chief Probation Officers of California
  • Scott Kernan, Secretary, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
  • Moderator: Scott Graves, Director of Research, California Budget & Policy Center


Check out our new Policy Insights video for a glimpse into what our conference is all about:



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