The Power of Budget Advocacy - Women's Foundation California

“In the 12 or 13 years that I have been working on legislation in California, there has never been a more important moment than right now to engage in the budget process,” says Judy Patrick, president and CEO of the Women’s Foundation of California.

This year, the Foundation is investing in influencing the California state budget. In addition to our Stand with Women campaign, we’ve also started, for the first time ever, a budget advocacy team through our Women’s Policy Institute.

In the below interview, Judy explains what budget advocacy is and why it’s critical at this time.

What is budget advocacy?

In a way, budget advocacy is no different than legislative advocacy, which seeks to influence and educate lawmakers on behalf of particular causes or initiatives. Though most of us don’t think about it in this way, the budget of the state of California is a bill that we pass every single year.

However, because the budget is a huge document with very big numbers and tremendous implications for communities, it’s intimidating to many people and difficult to understand. So unfortunately, we have not had many community advocates studying and working on the budget bill.

But the budget is too important to ignore. We think that it is critical that grassroots leaders and advocates in communities really understand what the budget is, how it works and how they can use advocacy to help shape a budget that reflects their values.

Why do you think budget advocacy is important at this time?

Over the last 5 years, our Women’s Policy Institute fellows have found that it’s  almost impossible to pass any bill that requires state funding—in other words, has a budget impact.  So, in order to move legislation on behalf of our constituents, we need to consider the budget.

We are in such a unique moment right now. We have just passed Proposition 30, which will prevent a lot of the cuts that would have otherwise happened—we avoided $6 billion in cuts. The proposition also creates revenues that were unanticipated, which will allow us to do some things that we desperately need to do in this state.

This is also a moment in which Democrats have a super majority in both Assembly and the Senate, which creates opportunities for us to do some advocacy that benefits low-income women and their families.

In the 12 or 13 years that I have been working on legislation in California, there has never been a more important moment than right now to engage in the budget process.

How is the Foundation approaching budget advocacy?

One of the things that we’ve always tried to do is deeply understand the budget. Right now, we’re in the process of not only understanding the impact of the last year’s budget, but we’re thinking about next year’s budget, which the Governor will be announcing in January of 2013.

We have also started, for the first time ever, a budget advocacy team through our Women’s Policy Institute. This team is composed of graduates of the Women’s Policy Institute (alumnae) and it’s a pilot project for us. We wish to see if we can significantly increase the expertise of the advocates in the community to work on the budget in the state of California.

What kind of budget is the Foundation advocating for?

The Women’s Foundation of California grounds its work in a belief in equity and justice for all. We believe that our state budget can reflect that. Yet for the past five years, we’ve made cuts that disproportionately affect low-income women and families. We’ve commissioned research from the California Budget Project that demonstrates the devastating impact budget cuts have had on programs that benefit low-income women and their families. That is a moral embarrassment.

A recent Huffington Post article pointed out that California now has the highest poverty rate in the United States; we still have an unemployment rate of over 10 percent; and single female-headed households have an unemployment rate that’s almost three times that. Considering these staggering statistics, we have to not only think about how to make our financial house right, but we need to think about how to devise a comprehensive approach to balancing the budget that values those in our state who have the least.

I think the Women’s Foundation of California will be the voice for justice and fairness as we move forward this year in our budget work. The debate cannot just be about tax fixes and further fiscal problem solving; we also really have to think about investing in the health and well-being of all Californians.

What can our supporters do to support this work?

  1. There will be many opportunities to reach out to your elected officials, your assembly members, your senators as well as the Governor. You’ll find these opportunities on our website, so please stay tuned. We hope that when you receive an email from us to reach out, to advocate, to make a phone call or to send an email that you’ll do so — and you’ll ask your friends to join in.
  2. I would also encourage you to follow the budget—read about it and learn about it—so that you can understand the impact the budget has on your life. We’ll publish a timeline soon to help you with that.
  3. Because we have to fund the work that we do—we give grants to dynamic organizations to work on the budget, and we have now hired a lobbyist in Sacramento to help us analyze the budget and move our agenda —financial contributions to support this work are always welcome and needed.
  4. The most important is that all of us in California deepen our understanding of the budget and its impact on our lives and our communities.

This work is powered by you.

The feminist future we are building together in California is going to be built by all of us sharing our time, our money, and our skills.  Please consider contributing today.

Together We Are Unstoppable.

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