Analysis of the 2008-09 Budget Bill: General Government

Office of Planning and Research (0650)

The Office of Planning and Research (OPR) assists the Governor and the administration in planning, research, and policy development, and acts as a liaison with local government. The office has responsibilities pertaining to state planning and environmental and federal project review. The OPR also administers the California Volunteers program, the federal AmeriCorps and Citizen Corps programs, and the Cesar Chavez Day of Service and Learning grant program.

The Governor’s budget proposes expenditures of $51 million ($9.5 million from the General Fund, $38 million in federal funds, and $3.5 million in reimbursements). As we discuss below, this includes a proposal to continue permanently $766,000 from the General Fund for the California Volunteer Matching Network (CVMN), which would otherwise expire in the current year. Also included are proposed General Fund reductions of $431,000 to state planning operational activities and $500,000 in local assistance grants for Cesar Chavez community service projects.

Volunteers Come at High Cost

We recommend that the Legislature reject the administration’s proposal to continue $766,000 in General Fund spending for the California Volunteer Matching Network due to the duplicative nature of the program and the cost of the program per volunteer. (Reduce Item 0650–001–0001 by $766,000.)

Background. The CVMN was provided two–year, limited–term funding in the 2006–07 Budget Act ($1.1 million annually from the General Fund) to launch a Web site,, that pulls together local volunteering opportunities and posts them all in a single, state–centered database. The funding also provided assistance to existing walk–in volunteer “hubs,” which serve 42 of the state’s 58 counties. These hubs are operated by nonprofit organizations and help potential volunteers find volunteer opportunities.

Administration’s Proposal. The administration requests $766,000 from the General Fund and 2.8 positions to permanently establish the CVMN. (The administration also proposes reducing this amount by $127,000 as a budget–balancing reduction.) The requested staff and resources would be used to continue the current marketing campaign for volunteering in California; maintain, improve, and expand the capabilities of the online database; and increase the number of and funding for local hubs.

Volunteers Come at High Cost. As we discuss below, the program duplicates other services available and has signed up few volunteers.

Recommend Rejecting Proposal. Given the availability of similar services from alternative sources and the significant costs associated with minimal increases in volunteer recruitment, the program has failed to justify its expenditures. Consequently, we recommend deleting the funding.

Suspend Discretionary Grants

Given the state’s budget shortfall, we recommend suspending $5 million in General Fund grants for Cesar Chavez Day of Service and Learning community service projects. (Reduce Item 0650–001–0001 by $5 million.)

Background. The Cesar Chavez Day of Service and Learning program was authorized by Chapter 213, Statutes of 2000 (SB 984, Polanco). The program annually provides $5 million in local assistance grants to implement various service and learning activities for K–12 students related to labor leader Cesar Chavez. In the current year, approximately one–half of the funds were used to support after school clubs in middle schools throughout the state. The remaining funds were allocated to various community service projects across the state and for administration costs. The Governor’s budget proposes reducing the grants by 10 percent in the budget year and provides $4.5 million in funding.

Recommend Suspending Funding. From 2003–04 through 2005–06, the grants were suspended by the Legislature due to the state’s budget shortfalls. Given the state’s fiscal situation, we recommend the Legislature once again suspend funding for the Cesar Chavez grant program. The program’s annual appropriation is provided for in statute. The Legislature, therefore, would need to suspend the appropriation in a trailer bill. To increase future legislative flexibility, we recommend deleting this statutory appropriation and making future funding contingent on an annual budget act appropriation.

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