State Budgeting


LETTER FROM SACRAMENTO: The Dismal Art - State Budgeting in California

Sierra Club California

Dear Sierra Club California Members and Friends,

Green California

California’s state budget is a mess. For about a decade, it has been out of balance, a situation that cost one governor (Davis) his job, and left another (Schwarzenegger) with extraordinarily low public support as his second term expired–and that was beforerevelations about some of his personal indiscretions.

Now the legislature and Governor Jerry Brown are nearly midway through this year’s budgeting process. Economists refer to their discipline as the “dismal science”. Budgeting, where politics, policy, special interest and public interest collide, can rightly be called the “dismal art”.

The state budget process for spending to protect environmental health crosses into a range of agencies and departments, and draws out a range of interests, including those who would just like to see all that environmental talk go away. Tracking the wins and losses in the budget process is kind of like tracking lights in space. Is that Mars or a satellite?

My staff and I have identified some key budget issues that require Sierra Club California’s attention. Certain actions on these will be needed to ensure that California’s environmental quality doesn’t decline: state parks cuts; cap-and-trade revenue spending; high-speed rail bond appropriations; funding for Department of Fish and Game to protect California’s forest integrity through timber harvest plan analysis; and sufficient funding to implement robust “green chemistry” regulation.

These budget issues aren’t the sort you’re likely to read much about in the daily newspaper. Indeed, their news value and immediate social impact pale when compared to the walloping punch in the gut that the poor, the disabled, and students will get–again–if the governor’s latest proposals for closing the state’s $9.2 billion budget gap are adopted. However, the environmental budget issues deserve attention because their outcome will have a substantial effect on the state’s long-term environmental and public health. They touch every Californian.

Over the last couple of weeks, and into the next few months, Sierra Club California staff will be weighing in at legislative budget hearings and in other ways with legislators and the governor about these issues. We hope you’ll do the same as we send out action alerts at key times.

I’ve posted on our website a short primer on these five environmental budget issues and Sierra Club California positions. Click here for that primer. 



Kathryn Phillips

Kathryn Phillips
Sierra Club California

Sierra Club California is the Sacramento-based legislative and regulatory advocacy arm of the 13 California chapters of the Sierra Club.

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