Impact of 2013 Food Benefits Cuts in the State of California
By Alina Figaro on Dec 3, 2013Approximately 47 million Americans receive food stamp supplements from the federal government. Federal food stamp spending increased from $15 billion in 2001 to $80 billion this year as millions of Americans became eligible for the program during the economic downturn. Through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka the 2009 federal stimulus), Congress increased food stamp funding by nearly 14% to provide additional resources during the recession. On November 1, the higher stimulus funding levels expired, including those for the food stamp program. As the program’s funding returns to pre-stimulus levels, collectively, states will lose $5 billion in food stamp benefits by 2014. Because food costs have risen more significantly in California than many other states, the state’s $457 million decrease in program funding will have more impact.
Optimistic California surplus forecasts ignore existing challenges
By Autumn Carter on Nov 27, 2013Apparently, all is well in California. However, politicos and average citizens probably disagree on that point. Last week, a report by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office said we should expect annual budget surpluses through 2019-20, including nearly $10 billion surpluses each year starting in 2017-18. Essentially, based on tenuous predictions that have traditionally missed the mark, the LAO is arguing that California’s fiscal troubles are over. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Oakland in Review: Can it Break Free of its Troubles and Set a Steadier Course?
By Madhu Ravi on Nov 20, 2013Oakland, CA, a city known for vibrant culture, history, and industry, has been plagued by a number of problems in recent years. Oakland has ranked among the nation’s most dangerous cities (its violent crime rate is more than triple the national average), is often cited as a potential candidate for bankruptcy, has a crumbling transportation infrastructure, and is still recovering from the Great Recession. To counter these issues, Oakland has taken on debt to maintain solvency, cut expenses with layoffs and furloughs, and pursued a more informed, data-driven approach to policing crime. Moving forward, as debt and city service cuts continue to strain the city’s budgets, they will also make confronting the city’s challenges increasingly difficult.
The First Month of the Affordable Care Act Health Exchanges
By Adam Tatum on Nov 14, 2013This week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released the initial data outlining the number of individuals who have enrolled in health insurance plans through these exchanges during the first month of open enrollment. According to the official figures, 106,185 individuals have enrolled in (but not necessarily paid for) a health plan through the exchanges nationwide between October 1 and November 2. This total represents only 1.5% of the 7 million individuals the Congressional Budget Office projected will enroll by the end of the open enrollment period (March 31, 2013).
How are Rising Health Costs Impacting Family Budgets?
By Adam Tatum on Nov 7, 2013In 2012, 55% of Americans received healthcare through employer-sponsored health insurance. The Milliman Medical Index (MMI), which tracks the annual cost of healthcare for a typical family of four, was $22,030 in 2013. This 117% increase is more than twice the $10,168 cost for a typical family of four’s healthcare in 2003, just a decade ago. By comparison, from 2003 to 2013, the U.S. average price for a gallon of gas rose from $1.60 to $3.62 (+126%), the average cost of public four-year college tuition rose from $4,098 to $8,646 (111% increase), and the average cost of food for a family-of-four has grown from $757 to $1,032 (36% increase).[v] All of these categories have grown faster than the median income for a family of four over the last decade, which grew from $64,374 to $79,728 (+24%).
How Does a $100 Ticket Become a $500 Ticket?
By Autumn Carter on Oct 31, 2013When rising costs exert pressure on government budgets, it is not unusual for citizens to pay higher fees and fines to provide additional revenue. In California, rising traffic violation fines reflect this trend. Statewide, running a red light for the first time results in a $100 traffic ticket. These days, however, a $100 ticket actually amounts to nearly $500.
Navigating California’s Minimum Wage Changes
By Madhu Ravi on Oct 23, 2013Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that will increase California's minimum wage from $8/hr to $10/hr by 2016. In 2012, among the nation’s 75.3 million hourly paid workers, 3.6 million (4.7%) were paid at or below the federal minimum nationally. In California, 1.4% of its 127,000 hourly paid workers earn the minimum wage. At $10/hr, California's minimum wage would be the nation's highest statewide minimum and place the state's wage above a traditional $8/hr ceiling that has prevailed over the last three decades.
Who Pays for Health Care?
By Adam Tatum on Oct 15, 2013We frequently note that health costs are skyrocketing, but not that there is a shift in who is paying those costs. In 2022, CMS projects that together, federal, state, and local governments will fund nearly half (49%) of national health care expenditures. In 1987 (earliest data available), governments funded only 32% of health spending nationwide. The federal government will bear most of this shift to government spending, with its share increasing 14 percentage points between 1987 and 2022.
Re-Calibrating CalSTRS: Evaluating the California State Teachers’ Retirement System’s Funding Shortfall
By Adam Tatum on Oct 3, 2013In September 2013, the California State Legislature began a four-month recess, once again leaving one of the state’s most significant and escalating issues unresolved – the major California State Teachers’ Retirement System’s (CalSTRS) funding shortfall. Until now, failing to address the shortfall has delayed some short-term budget strains but ironically made California’s K-12 education system far more vulnerable to severe cuts in both the near and long-term future.
Common Core: California can't afford to forgo test data
By Jack Mosbacher on Sep 20, 2013In the coming weeks, Gov. Jerry Brown will likely sign AB 484, a measure that would put the state at odds with the Obama administration and risk $1.5 billion in federal funding by effectively suspending data collection on K-12 student achievement for the current school year as the state transitions to the Common Core curriculum. What this effort doesn't consider is that there are other crucial changes taking place in California's education system, including different ways to allocate funding to schools. At this time of major change, a year without this data is unacceptable.