A group of state senators wants to spend $5 billion over the next four years on a range of programs to provide more affordable housing and deal with California’s growing homelessness problem.
But now they have to persuade Gov. Jerry Brown to go along with the increased spending, something he’s shown little inclination to do.
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The group, including Bay Area state Sens. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, Nancy Skinner of Berkeley and Jim Beall of San Jose, held a Capitol news conference Wednesday to announce the terms of their proposal and set the stage for negotiations with the governor.
“Our housing shortage is hurting people all over California, including our lowest-income residents, who are being displaced and driven into homelessness due to the incredibly high cost of housing,” Wiener said in a statement. “This budget proposal is a significant investment in our need for more affordable housing.”
Although a staff report to a Senate budget subcommittee Wednesday said the proposal “builds on the governor’s budget,” it calls for far more money than Brown asked for in his revised spending plan for fiscal 2018-19.
The Senate proposal calls for spending $2.1 billion on affordable-housing construction over the next four years, along with $1 billion to deal with long-term homelessness, another $1 billion on short-term homelessness programs and nearly $900 million for programs under SB2, a housing bill that Brown signed in September that is funded by recording fees on real estate documents and some property transactions.
The package is designed to provide help for immediate homelessness and housing needs while also looking down the road for longer-term solutions, such as building more housing and providing money that’s “deeply targeted toward moving chronically homeless individuals … into permanent supportive housing,” according to the subcommittee report. Such housing provides services such as substance-abuse counseling, mental health care and job-search assistance, all designed to keep newly housed people off the street.
While noting that Brown’s budget “made notable investments with an eye toward mitigating the state’s homelessness crisis,” the senators argued that it wasn’t enough.
That could be a tough point to make to Brown, who has said there are many more worthy programs in the state than there is money to pay for them.
“Most people who come to California want more,” Brown said at a conference last week. “If you add up all the mores, we’re totally bankrupt.”
In the budget revise the governor announced Friday, Brown called for stashing much of an $8.8 billion windfall in the state’s rainy day fund and budget reserve. He would spend most of the rest on one-time expenses like deferred maintenance, mental health programs and wildfire prevention, as well as $359 million in this-year-only homelessness funds.
“This is a time to save for our future, not to make pricey promises we can’t keep,” Brown said, pointing toward what he said was an inevitable financial downturn.
Plenty of Democrats disagree with the governor’s priorities, but typically in the nicest possible words.
Brown’s budget “is a strong starting point,” state Sen. Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles, chair of the Senate budget committee, said Friday. But “we have to lift up the families that are struggling now.”
John Wildermuth is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @jfwildermuth