What’s Next: Dive into NextGen’s Budget WINS, Climate & Higher Ed Updates, & More!

July 17, 2023

We hope you’re staying cool in the July heat! The NextGen team is diving into our summer workload and focusing first and foremost on understanding the contours of the recently enacted California state budget. After weeks of negotiation between the Governor and legislative leaders, the final state budget was signed about a week ago and a number of its accompanying trailer bills were also voted upon and signed. Faced with having to close a multi-billion dollar deficit, our elected officials did a solid job protecting California’s most vulnerable populations by doing their best to maintain investment levels in key health, human services, housing, and other economic and educational programs. They also kept the state on track in our fight against climate change, although did make cuts to important community resilience programs. As you know, these programmatic investments align with NextGen’s equity and justice values system and our mission to fight for a more equitable, climate-resilient, and prosperous state for all.

This edition of What’s Next breaks down important pieces of the state budget as well as provide updates on issues in the areas of higher education, climate, and other timely items that you won’t want to miss! Here’s What’s Next at NextGen:

Breaking Down California’s Budget: Now with Governor Newsom having officially signed the state budget, it is time to turn our attention to fully analyzing what was and was not funded as well as the implementation process. We also must start to think about the state’s fiscal picture for the remainder of this year and going into next year as the forecasters indicate the fiscal picture will worsen. Below is a breakdown of some NextGen budget wins plus a few items we’re still fighting to get funded. If you haven’t had a chance yet, check out NextGen’s official response to the California state budget!

★ Climate WINS:

  • NextGen was instrumental in defending last year’s $54 billion historic Climate Commitment and was able to ensure it remained mostly intact – the budget allocated about $50 billion to continue the state’s actions to combat climate change. However, key environmental justice and community resilience programs saw heavy cuts. We will continue to fight for these programs and a state budget that is 100% aligned with our climate goals!
  • NextGen played a crucial role in supporting and defending $4 billion from last year’s Sustainable Transportation Package and helped secure funding to avoid the public transit “fiscal cliff.”

★ Criminal Legal Reform WIN:

  • NextGen supported funding to help individuals reintegrate into society after their term of incarceration and most of this funding was retained at $40 million.

★ Digital Equity WIN:

  • NextGen defended the $6 billion to build out the state’s broadband infrastructure and ensure every California has affordable, high-speed internet access.

★ Education Equity WIN:

  • NextGen was successful in obtaining state tax relief for federal student loan borrowers who have seen recent loan forgiveness or loan discharges under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and relief from other state taxes for college students who received pandemic-related institutional debt forgiveness and emergency grant aid.

★ Solving Food Insecurity WIN:

  • NextGen was instrumental in ensuring that the $60 million for the Farm to School Program which provides fresh, local, healthy food to California students as well as the $1.66 billion to fully fund the School Meals for All program remained in the state budget.

★ Inclusive Democracy WIN:

  • NextGen supported legislation to create a state Youth Empowerment Commission and funding for its implementation was included in the state budget.

★ Income and Wealth Inequality WIN:

  • NextGen helped secure $1.5 million to create, staff, and implement the Racial Equity Commission, which the Governor enacted through an Executive Order we strongly supported.

There are a handful of items that were not adopted this year, but our fight to help advance these equity-focused legislative items is just beginning:

★ Still Fighting for Climate:

  • NextGen continues to advocate for investments and policies to support climate-resilient schools.

★ Still Fighting to Solve Food Insecurity:

  • NextGen continues to fight for funding – roughly $14 million annually – to implement SB 907, which created the Local, Equitable Access to Food (LEAF) program.

Changing Our Stance on AB 41: We are committed to our promise to keep you informed on the good and bad news that comes with our policy work. We are disappointed to share that The Digital Equity in Video Franchising Act, also known as DEVFA (AB 41 – Assemblymember Chris Holden), has recently taken on amendments that undermine the core tenets of the bill, and thus make our current position of strong support untenable. We have therefore made the unfortunate yet necessary decision to now oppose AB 41 as it is currently amended. Despite this change in position, we look forward to continuing our work to help provide equitable access to fast, reliable broadband internet access for all. More information on what’s next for our digital equity work is coming soon!

California Remains Committed to Climate: NextGen’s Climate Policy Fellow, Jamie Pew, shared his thoughts on the California state budget with respect to our Climate 100 Project: “Amidst a very challenging fiscal picture, our state’s leadership enacted a budget that maintains the lion’s share of last year’s historic $54 billion climate commitment, providing a crucial lifeline to many essential programs including our local transit systems. This budget agreement will help ensure the state stays on course in the pursuit of a climate-ready future.” Hear more from Jamie on how California can make good on its Climate Commitment in his official response!

Check out NextGen’s Legislative Director & Policy Advisor Samantha Seng in the LA Times!

“There’s going to be a high risk of default for a bunch of borrowers being forced back into a broken student loan system.” – Samantha Seng

Hear more from Samantha on the burdens student borrowers are facing now that President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan has been struck down – and how borrowers can move forward from here – in the LA Times!

Did You Know? California is making moves to help accelerate our state’s transition to clean energy and zero-emission vehicles! Governor Newsom recently announced that California is partnering with the nation’s top truck manufacturers to accelerate the transition to zero-emission vehicles and help reduce pollution levels while building an economy of the future – learn more about California’s clean energy efforts!

Partner Spotlight: On July 11th, we joined our friends at Young Invincibles for their #TodaysVoicesTuesdays Q+A session on Twitter! We provided answers to some common questions student borrowers have on the status of President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, the restart of loan repayments, resources available to support borrowers, and more – visit Young Invincible’s Twitter page to check out all 10 questions and our answers!

What’s Next: With the state legislature officially out on their Summer Recess until mid-August, the NextGen team will be preparing for our final, big advocacy push. Stay tuned for more information on our priorities, including how you can join us and get involved in our work, coming soon!

Our Mission: NextGen Policy fights for progressive policy change to address environmental, social, racial, and economic inequities through justice-centered legislative advocacy, grassroots partnerships, and democratic civic engagement.

Vulnerable communities across California are counting on us to keep up our advocacy for equity and justice – we need YOUR help! As Californians, it’s up to us to come together and fight for equitable policies and solutions to help protect our communities who need it most. A donation from you will directly support our efforts to make environmental, social, racial, gender, and economic justice a reality for all Californians.

Thank you,
NextGen Policy