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CCRL California Center for Regional Leadership
Connecting California's Regions to the State and Each Other
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San Francisco, CA 94104
Phone (415) 445-8975
Fax (415) 445-8974

CalRegions Email Newsletters Archive
CalRegions Volume VI, Issue 2 - April 2005
SPECIAL BULLETIN

THE CALIFORNIA BUDGET CHALLENGE

Nick BollmanDear Friend of CCRL:

It’s your state budget – you decide.  Take the “California Budget Challenge.”

We write to you from time to time about critical issues facing California, but no message has been more important than this: “it’s your state budget—you decide.”  You no doubt have heard already about this remarkable new online opportunity to build your own budget for the next ten years, the California Budget Challenge (CBC). It was created by Next Ten as a public service to Californians who want to make a difference. In just a short time, the Challenge enables you to understand the state budget and the tough choices it requires -- setting the tax and spending priorities you would choose, while still balancing the budget.  The CBC also tells you some of the implications of your choices, such as how we compare to other states.  It’s set for the year 2015 because we didn’t want the CBC to get caught up in the highly political to-and-fro of the current budget year, but the numbers and choices are all real and accurate, and you’ll get a realistic flavor of what our lawmakers face in trying to pass a state budget.

Take the Challenge by clicking on the graphic below.  And please, pass this e-mail on to a friend!

Why CCRL believes that the California Budget Challenge is a crucial opportunity for effective civic engagement:

At CCRL’s June 2003 Civic Entrepreneur Summit in Sacramento, during the height of the worst budget deficit crisis in our state’s history, our Regional Collaborative partners from around the state heard from Sacramento insiders and experts that, ultimately, the demand to solve the crisis through structural reform would have to come from outside Sacramento itself.

But -- our partners said -- if we’re going to get involved effectively we need to know a lot more about the budget:

  • Where do the revenues come from and where do the expenditures go?
  • How did we get into the deficit crisis, and what are the ways we might get out?
  • How does the state government set priorities, and do they follow the basic “3E” tenets, supporting a strong Economy, sound Environment and social Equity?
  • How can we get involved, and where do we start?

We decided together that education about the budget is the essential first step, and fortuituously, we met up with our long-time colleague, Stephen Levy of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, and a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and philanthropist, F. Noel Perry.  Noel had approached Steve about how he could get involved, with a particular concern that the state budget didn’t appear to emerge from any long-range thinking and planning.  “Where is the vision for California?” he said, “Where is the strategic plan?”  So together we embarked on the Next Ten budget education and dialogue project.

With Noel’s philanthropic support and personal leadership, over the course of 2004 CCRL co-convened with our Regional Collaborative network and others 14 regional budget education dialogues.  At the dialogues Steve presented the facts about the state budget, and objectively analyzed the root causes of the deficit crisis.  The assembled leaders from business, community, local government and education organizations then talked with each other about the nature of the problem and what could be done to solve it.  Hundreds of leaders from across the state took the first step toward fixing the problem—they became educated about the state budget.

But this is a state of 36 million people!  We asked ourselves: how can we possibly reach thousands and thousands of people?  One answer: the Internet.  Suppose we gave people easy access to a budget choices exercise, one that they can take on their own time and in their own way?  And so, the California Budget Challenge project was born.  Over the last several months, Steve and our CCRL staff and a team of website designers, again with Noel’s philanthropic support, created the Challenge.  They looked at “best practices” models from other states and communities, but these all fell short.  We all gathered up a certain California pride and determined that this exercise would be “state of the art.”  And on April 5th Next Ten launched the CBC on the Internet -- a wide variety of our partners across the state are promoting its use among their members and networks.

We are deeply grateful to Noel and Steve for their leadership on this project – Noel is now taking the Next Ten project forward as an independent entity, to continue and expand upon the public service work already under way.  You can keep up-to-date with the work that Next Ten is doing by visiting www.next-ten.org

So, dear friend, it’s now up to you.  Take the Challenge!  Pass it on!  And be sure to tell us what you think.  This is Version 1.0 and Next Ten is committed to maintain the Challenge as a living tool, continue to make improvements that make it a better experience for users, and develop different versions for different audiences.

With best wishes for a successful Challenge,

Nick Bollman, President
California Center for Regional Leadership SD