Governor Schwarzenegger’s 2009-10 budget proposal calls for the elimination of First 5 California and what amounts to a permanent 60 percent reduction in funding to the state’s 58 county commissions, including First 5 LA. Although the Governor’s proposal is less draconian than a plan pitched in December by Republican’s legislators ? who sought to divert all First 5 funding to the state general fund ? his proposed reduction of most funds going to county Commissions would rip a giant hole in local safety net services for the state’s most vulnerable children.

The Governor’s plan would divert First 5 funding to what he calls “high priority state programs that would otherwise require (state) General Fund support.” Unfortunately this would require eliminating high priority First 5 funded local programs ? programs currently meeting the needs of millions of children and families throughout the state. The proposal also goes against the will of California voters who have twice supported Proposition 10, which created First 5 commissions, and the principle of funding both a local safety net and early childhood development programs critical to improving children’s well-being and their chances of success in life.

As the county with the most young-children and the largest share of revenue from the First 5 tobacco tax, Los Angeles County’s children will take the biggest hit under the Governor’s proposal. The plan needs a two-thirds vote in the state Legislature to be placed on the ballot, where it then must garner voter approval to pass.

While the Governor’s proposed diversion of First 5 funds would only be applied to funds not yet received by local Commissions, the loss of matching funds from the state Commission could potentially deliver a fatal blow to local School Readiness and Power of Preschool co-funded efforts. The resulting impact in L.A. County would be greater than a 60 percent loss in revenue.

First 5 LA is actively responding to this threat in a number of ways.

  • Educating elected officials and Sacramento leadership on our funding structure, investments and outcomes, stressing the importance of the local decision-making county commissions engage in to assure that First 5 funds go where they are most needed.
  • Highlighting the significant commitment First 5 LA has made to children’s health care coverage, including recent grants for more than $25 million to assure that new Healthy Families enrollees are covered and that more than 200,000 youngsters on Medi-Cal receive key health maintenance services that improve their access to quality care. Both funding decisions were made in response to the state’s fiscal crisis and economic downturn.

If you would like more information about how the state budget crisis may impact First 5 LA and the community programs it supports, please contact Katie Kurutz, Public Affairs Officer, at 213-482-7556.