Governor Brown inherited a $26 billion dollar deficit when he came into office–an absolutely massive financial problem. In January of 2011, he unveiled a budget plan that eliminated all of the state’s funding to public libraries–a total of $30.4 million. This would impact three critical programs that serve our communities and many of our most vulnerable citizens (including 20,000 adults annually who benefit from literacy programs). California would also lose out on approximately $16 million in Federal matching funds should this money not be allocated to the libraries via the budget.
The California Library Association and other groups worked with the Governor’s office and the legislature to educate them about the valuable services the at-risk library programs provide to California citizens. They came up with a realistic plan that would allow the programs to remain functional at a reduced funding level of $15.2 million. The results were positive in that Governor Brown’s June budget, which was approved, included the $15.2 million for libraries.
However, this budget contained two “trigger bills,” which would allow for deep cuts to be made mid-year should it be determined by December 15th that state revenues were falling below the forecasted amount of $87+ billion. And that is what has happened. Tax revenues are short by more than $2 billion. Governor Brown pulled the triggers, and all public library funding has been eliminated along with hundreds of millions in other reductions.
Last year, The San Francisco Public Library received $460,363 in state funding for the three programs mentioned above. Even with its 2011-2012 fiscal year budget of $86+ million, this funding loss will have a tangible impact. However, the impact to smaller library systems, for instance in rural counties, is catastrophic. For many libraries, this state money is their only means of funding literacy and lending programs.
As I stated above, the cuts implemented by the Governor are acute and will affect students, the working poor, the disabled, and other vulnerable groups. The California Library Association is now focusing its efforts on building funding for libraries back into the upcoming budget for 2012-1213.