After grappling with a $30.7-billion deficit, California lawmakers approved this week a budget that includes additional funding for child care and climate change initiatives and struggling public transportation agencies.
The $311.7-billion budget also includes $10 million for various local projects in the Peninsula district represented by Sen. Josh Becker, D-Menlo Park, a list that includes $2 million for a permanent Black history museum in East Palo Alto; $1 million for an affordable senior-housing project that is being developed by the Palo Alto-based nonprofit Alta Housing in North Fair Oaks; and $1 million to bolster protection for mobile home parks in a flood-prone section of Redwood City, Becker announced Wednesday, June 28.
The new Domini Hoskins Black History Museum would be constructed on land owned by the Ravenswood City School District and would be part of a broader redevelopment of the site that involves tearing down the district's headquarters and building housing, Becker said. A brainchild of Carolyn Hoskins, the museum has long been seeking a permanent home. Most recently, it had been operating on a temporary basis in Redwood City, at the corner of Jefferson and Middlefield.
Becker also helped secure $300,000 for the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center to support the PREP Fellowship Program, which is designed to combat antisemitism and prepare teenagers for college. The funding was secured in collaboration with state Assemblymember Marc Berman.
Other projects that Becker had announced in his district include:
• $300,000 to the city of Millbrae to support the Bayside Manor and Marina Vista Park projects.
• $500,000 to San Mateo County toward creation of the 90 Mile Ohlone-Portola Heritage Trail Project.
• $1.5 million to the Community Services Agency (CSA) of Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills to repair and repurpose an existing building at 204 Stierlin Road and pursue a secondary site for a food and nutrition center.
• $200,000 to Redwood City and Redwood City Together for its Purposeful, Action, Creation and Engagement (PACE) program, which provides programs and mentorship to youths.
• $2 million to plan and produce affordable housing for farmworkers in Half Moon Bay.
• $1 million for a wastewater purification project in Burlingame.
• $200,000 to support green infrastructure, including solar-powered streetlights, in Los Altos.
Becker, who chairs the Senate Budget Subcommittee No. 2 on Resources, Environmental Protection and Energy, touted the budget's allocations for climate initiatives, including more than $2 billion for wildfire prevention and suppression and more than $1.25 billion for energy projects. This includes $500 million for electric-vehicle chargers and other infrastructure to support a switch to carbon-free vehicles as well as $500 million for building decarbonization, money that Becker said will target lower-income communities and that will help residents invest in technology such as heat pump water heaters.
"There's some really significant investments in electric homes and buildings and transition to electric vehicles, as well as continuing the transition of our grid, which has been a priority of mine," Becker told this publication in an interview.
Becker said he is particularly pleased with the $1.4 billion that the budget allocates for subsidized child care. The funding would effectively eliminate fees for families with incomes below 75% of the average median income. For families with incomes above 75% of AMI but who qualify for subsidized child care, the fees are capped at 1% of monthly income, he said.
The budget also provides some assistance to struggling public transit agencies that have seen ridership and revenues drop precipitously during the pandemic. Gov. Gavin Newsom had encountered significant resistance to his earlier plan to cut $2 billion in public transit funding, a move that critics claimed would push public transit over a "fiscal cliff" and require significant service cuts.
The budget restores that funding and adds $1.1 billion for transit operations, funding that would be taken from the state's Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. In addition, the budget will give transit agencies the flexibility to spend $4 billion in the state's Transportation and Intercity Rail Capital Program on operational expenses.
State officials are now considering raising bridge tolls to make up the balance.
"Unfortunately, it doesn't fully fill the gap in the fiscal cliff, which is why we're looking at other revenue sources, but it's a significant filling in of the gap," Becker said.