VISALIA – Water and healthcare was forced into the State’s 2019-2020 budget as a priority this year.
With a $22 billion surplus and $215 billion in spending, the southern region of the Central Valley got the financial OK needed from the State’s budget to get some projects off the ground. Brokered in large part by rookie state senator for California’s 14 Senate District, Melissa Hurtado, the southern portion of the Valley has gained tens of millions of dollars of investment in drinking water, asthma mitigation, aging and disability resource centers and Valley Fever research.
For drinking water the State’s budget dedicates millions in ongoing funding from the general fund. Under Senate Bill 200, authored by Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel), and coauthored by Senator Hurtado the bill authorizes $130 million in continuous appropriation from the General Fund which will be used to secure safe drinking water in some of Tulare County’s most vulnerable communities.
“Since the beginning of the year, our community has witnessed firsthand, a Governor and leaders who have prioritized our needs in the Central Valley,” stated Sen. Melissa Hurtado. “I am beyond grateful for the work of Governor Gavin Newsom and Senate Leader Toni Atkins who have both been incredibly inclusive during this process to ensure that the budget is fully reflective of all of California.”
The budget dedicated $2.5 million in General Fund one-time spending to Continue funding the placement and filling of temporary water tanks for households that have lost their water supply because of a dry well.
$1 million to replace Water Well #21 in the City of Dinuba
$2.5 million to bring communities into compliance with safe drinking water standards and remove arsenic from water in communities like Alpaugh in Tulare County and Arvin in Kern County.
$2.5 million for a new water and tertiary treatment plant for Tulare County
$1 million to repair water systems in Fresno and Tulare Counties, to improve access to water in cities like Orosi and Del Rey
The State’s budget also dedicates millions to pulmonary research and health care including:
$2 million for the Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical to support valley fever research
$15 million Asthma Mitigation that will help ensure vulnerable communities have access to asthma prevention services by funding asthma education and home trigger assessments provided by qualified, non-licensed professionals including community health workers, and increasing financial support for environmental trigger remediation in the home.
$5 million in ongoing funds (yearly) Aging and Disability Resource Center Services that will allocate additional funding for Aging and Disability Resource Centers to help support vulnerable and aging communities and caregivers in need resource and referral services.
$12 Million Youth and Family Civic Engagement Initiative over three years for the Youth and Family Civic Engagement Initiative. The initiative will address civic engagement disparities for low-income and highly vulnerable youth and families.
Anne Kelsey Lamb, Director for Regional Asthma Management and Prevention said that nobody should wind up in an emergency room because of asthma.
“Fortunately, with this new support from the state, people with poorly controlled asthma who are covered by Medi-Cal will soon have access to help right in their homes. Asthma home visiting programs are proven to improve health outcomes and reduce health care costs,” Lamb said.
Policy Advocate, Linda Tenerowicz says additional funding for asthma care helps breakdown the financial barriers citizens face when it comes to care.
“In Medi-Cal the vast majority of beneficiaries are communities of color and also tend to have the poorest controlled asthma as compared to other populations,” Tenerowicz said.
She also praised Newsom’s willingness to dedicate funding towards asthma care.
“CPEHN applauds the leadership of the State Legislature and Governor Newsom in dedicating $15 million toward crucial in-home visitation services to help historically underserved communities mitigate asthma symptoms in their homes and stay out of the emergency room.”
Republic Whip of the Assembly, and representative of the Calif. 26 Assem. District, Devon Mathis says there is more than enough pork in this year’s budget to leave projects out for the Valley.
“This budget contains more pork than a pig farm. Not only does this budget contain millions in spending for the construction of statues and dog parks, it comes at the expense of expanding funding for after-school programs for our youths. These misguided priorities cannot go unchecked,” Mathis said.
He added that some of the projects this budget funds are unproven.
“Throughout the budget, we spend millions on new and untested proposals, and on programs which do not directly benefit our communities,” Mathis said. One of the areas he says the State is ignoring is rural citizens’ access to quality healthcare providers. He added that the problem gets worse every year. “Families in my communities are told they’ll have to wait weeks to see their doctors; this budget, through its massive expansion of the system, will force these wait times into months. This is unacceptable,” Mathis said.
Recently elected Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove from Bakersfield admonished Democrats for their high level of spending the State’s budget provides, and that Democrats’ celebration is in the face of new taxes on citizens.
She went on to say that this budget is hurting hardworking families because the budget includes $2 billion in new taxes and recklessly grows the government spending by nearly $49 billion from 2016.
“And just this morning as Democrat leaders are celebrating, Californians woke up to see their gas taxes up another 5.6 cents per gallon of gasoline. California now has the distinction of having the highest gas taxes in the nation,” Grove said.
“With a record $215 billion budget and $22 billion surplus, Californians have some things to be thankful for, but plenty to worry about as many economists fear that an economic downturn is approaching,” Grove said.
This article was updated on July 18 at 4:41 p.m.