The California Budget and Policy Center (formerly California Budget Project)  is a labor union- and left-of-center-foundation-funded policy advocacy group focusing on the state of California. The group supports left-wing, redistributive state fiscal policies. The group provides research and messaging assistance to aid the advocacy efforts of left-wing organizations. 
California Budget and Policy Center has published multiple contentious reports and consistently sides against the policies supported by California Republicans. The group’s research findings consistently support social redistribution policies and expansion of the California welfare state. The Center has pushed for multiple billion-dollar tax increases to fund massive expansions of state welfare spending and has opposed Democratic spending plans that allocate money to savings and rainy-day funds over current social program spending. The Center has also supported liberal labor, criminal justice, education, and health care policies.
In January 1995 Jean Ross, who previously served as the principal consultant to the California Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee, founded the California Budget Project. The California Budget Project was a non-profit research organization that explained how California’s state fiscal and economic policy issues impacted poor Californians. In 2015 at its twentieth anniversary conference, the California Budget Project was renamed the California Budget & Policy Center.
Over its two decades, the organization has expanded to a full policy staff. The organization’s policy work has broadened beyond the budget to encompass a wide set of liberal issues, including tax policy, economic trends, education, health, criminal justice, and others.
The California Budget and Policy Center is a member of the State Priorities Partnership network of left-leaning state policy think tanks. According to California Budget & Policy Center founder Jean Ross, State Priorities Partnership has been instrumental in passing liberal prerogatives across the country, focusing on issues such as minimum wage increases, low-income tax credits, expanding Medicaid under Obamacare, and opposing spending caps like the one that the Center fought off in California. Ross has said, “Everywhere where there is a victory on these [liberal] issues, we see a member of this national network.”
The California Budget and Policy Center conducts public policy research and provides analysis through policy briefs, data hits, chart books, and short papers.  Reputable news sources such as California’s Capitol Public Radio and the Fresno Bee have noted California Budget and Policy Center’s “liberal” positioning. 
In 2012, John Seiler for the blog Calwatchdog said, “Sometimes the left-leaning California Budget Project produces worthy studies. Its new analysis of Proposition 30 isn’t one of them.” According to Seiler, the California Budget Project’s analysis ignored the fact that the tax increase ballot measure it was supporting could be siphoned to the state’s costly pension fund and also ignored the economic ramifications posed by siphoning billions of dollars from the private economy, in turn threatening business and jobs.
In a 2011 article, Seiler blasted the California Budget Project, which he said was “better termed the California Tax-Increase Project,” for supporting the California adoption of a contentious New York internet sales tax system that was currently in limbo and could harm California businesses and benefit businesses headquartered in other states.
The California Budget & Policy Center or its leaders have consistently opposed Republican policy platforms.
In 2010, Jean Ross criticized then-gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman’s (R-California) plan to do more with less by cutting bureaucracy saying, “Generalities don’t balance the budget.” In a separate 2010 article, Ross critiqued Whitman’s proposed $7 billion capital gains tax cut because it would require cuts in health care, higher education and prisons.
Similarly in 2003, Ross sided against then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (R-California) proposed $3.8 billion tax cuts. In 2008 she opposed his plan to reign in the state budget through across-the-board spending cut, instead suggesting that the legislature would have to look at the increasing revenues in line with proposed Democratic state Assembly-sponsored tax increases.
The California Budget and Policy Center has taken a left-wing view toward a wide-variety of political issues.
The California Budget and Policy Center consistently advocates for a progressive tax structure including a multitude of varying tax increase proposals to fund its spending prerogatives. In a July 2017 presentation on “progressive budgeting,” a California Budget and Policy Center analyst concluded that taxes need to be raised on the rich while government spending needed to focus on the poor.
In 2012, the California Budget Project “endorsed” Governor Jerry Brown’s (D-California) proposed tax initiative, a $6 billion annual tax increase that came in the form of a one-quarter-cent state sales tax increase and an income tax rate increase on individuals earning over $250,000 per year.
Wage Subsidies and Basic Income
The California Budget & Policy Center consistently pushes for costly welfare programs. In 2016, the conservative-leaning California Policy Center criticized California Budget and Policy Center’s executive director Chris Hoene’s push for a May budget revision that encouraged “expansion of the welfare state in a whole host of new costly ways.”
Similarly, in 2014, The California Budget and Policy Center’s leadership criticized Governor Brown’s spending priorities for favoring fiscal prudence (i.e. “paying down debt and saving for a rainy day”) over boosting current spending for public programs.
California Budget and Policy Center was an early advocate for the creation and subsequent expansion of the state earned income tax credit, a tax expenditure benefiting the working poor.In 2015, the Center advocated for the creation of “fully refundable” state Earned Income Tax Credit. Subsequently, the Center cheered for the 2015 budget’s creation of a $380 million Earned Income Tax Credit as it had previously requested, but seemingly unsatisfied with this development California Budget & Policy Center’s leader Chris Hoene took the opportunity to call upon the Governor to “go even further” on funding more government programs.
In the wake of the Earned Income Tax Credit’s creation, the California Budget and Policy Center has held workshops in favor of a “universal basic income” policy that guarantees “direct cash payments to every person,” regardless of their economic circumstances. Moreover the Center argued that “California already has a basic income policy, the earned income tax credit, and it should be significantly expanded.” The California Budget and Policy Center’s estimated costs for a universal basic income for all Californians range from $20 billion on the low-end to $468 billion on the high end, more than twice California’s annual budget, at the same time acknowledging that universal basic income can’t be accomplished without raising taxes.
In 2017, the California Budget and Policy Center cheered for the state budget, which it claimed “greatly strengthens” the earned income tax credit by extending it to well over one million additional families. After its passage, the Center encouraged state policymakers to build on these changes and in future years increase the size of the credit.
The California Budget and Policy Center has fervently opposed the repeal of Obamacare policies and federal healthcare funding allotments gained under the Obama administration. The Center has provided detailed roadmaps with varying details for California to create a government-controlled single-payer healthcare system.
The California Budget and Policy Center often argues that the state improperly prioritizes criminal justice spending over other social policy spending. They have argued that instead of paying for jail construction the state should divert funds to substance abuse programs as well as pre-k and education funding. In 2017, the Center hosted a workshop discussing ways that California could reduce its prison population.
On other criminal justice issues, the Center has taken liberal policy positions. For instance in 2014, the Center suggested that the California legislature redirect $40 million from police departments to social programs such as early care and education. Additionally, the California Budget and Policy Center cheered a legislative decision to spend $32 million annually providing government benefits to convicted felons.
A 2014, a California Budget & Policy Center infographic claimed that California’s minimum wage fell short of the income needed for a “modest standard of living” in California and argued that California legislators could boost workers’ incomes by raising the minimum wage and tying it to automatic perpetual increases.
It has also advocated for other pro-labor provisions such as measures that increase the likelihood of legal actions being brought against employers.
In a 2014 blog post, the California Budget and Policy Center bemoaned the fact that while private employment had nearly rebounded from the lows of the post-2008 Great Recession, government worker employment had not.
Opposition to Trump Administration
California Budget and Policy Center’s leader, Chris Hoene, vowed to make “federal policy proposals” a “major priority” after the election of President Donald Trump. Hoene proclaimed that the Trump administration’s plan to repeal Obamacare was “fundamentally the wrong choice economically and socially” and that his proposed tax cuts and budget proposals were similarly bad economic and social choices.
In May 2017, the California Budget and Policy Center railed against President Trump’s Proposed Budget as “Bad for Californians and for the Economy.” In November 2017 the Center published a post citing 5 reasons why the U.S. House and President Trump’s tax reform plan, which reduced or eliminated the federal state and local tax deduction, was a “bad deal” for California. The Center previously railed against the plan for not providing enough tax benefits for low- and middle-income households and for shifting the responsibility to pay for services to state governments.
Lobbying and Advocacy Activities
In 2015, the California Budget and Policy Center indicated on its annual IRS filing that the group spent a miniscule $870 on lobbying. In lieu of formally lobbying the state legislature, the Center conducts advocacy workshops prior to the budget cycle as well as budget-training workshops throughout the year to expand engagement by its “targeted communities” through liberal groups such as the Women’s Policy Institute, the Leadership Institute of Hispanas Organized For Political Equity (HOPE), Hunger Advocacy Network, Southern California Grantmakers, San Diego Grantmakers, and Northern California Grantmakers.
Despite the organization’s small lobbying budget the California Budget and Policy Center’s (California Budget Project) research has been used in countless state legislative analyses supporting a variety of California’s legislative policies. In 2017, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) relied on Center research to make the claim that half of California’s children rely on Medicaid in order to criticize proposed cuts to Medicaid. However, according to the Medpage blog, California is “more liberal than many states in setting federal poverty thresholds to determine eligibility for children and teens, with 266% of the poverty level ($53,625.60 for a three-person household with one child).”
The organization’s leaders, Jean Ross and Chris Hoene, have presented the organization’s research findings to California legislative committees.  Neither Ross nor Hoene were registered lobbyists at the time of their testimony, nor did the California Budget Project employ any lobbyists. 
The California Budget and Policy Center hosts an annual policy conference featuring nationally recognized left-wing speakers such as the editor of the liberal internet media site Vox.com, Ezra Klein. The California Budget and Policy Center annual conference brings together hundreds of liberal advocates, policymakers, and researchers in workshops intended to help attendees advance liberal budget and policy issues that impact low-income individuals.
In 2015, the conference featured breakout sessions summarizing the threat that “Republican Control of Congress” posed to welfare and income support programs in California. In 2016, the policy conference included panels entitled “Forging Pathways to Health Care Coverage for Undocumented Immigrants” and “Making the Case for Boosting Revenues: Strategies for Messaging and Talking About Taxes.”
During the 2016 California Budget and Policy Center conference’s tax-increase messaging strategy session, the Center’s Steven Bliss explained that in selling a tax increase policy proponents should frame the issue as to “ensure that big corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share” and should be as specific as possible about what kinds of things the new tax revenues would buy.
In 2017, the conference included separate breakout sections on a wide range of liberal prerogatives focused on climate change, a universal basic income, reducing incarceration, and a session focused on the impacts of President Trump’s and Republican Congressional leaders’ vow to repeal Obamacare.
Since 2001 the California Budget and Policy Center’s annual revenues have increased by 44% while at the same time its annual expenditures have increased by nearly 140%. In total, the group’s net assets have only grown by 27% over 14 years, or approximately 1.9% per year.
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According to the Center, it is funded through foundation grants, subscriptions to its publications, and individual donations. The organization discloses that the following individuals, organizations, unions, and foundations have made contributions to the California Budget & Policy Center:
The California Endowment, California Health Care Foundation, California Federation of Teachers, California Teachers Association (CTA), the California Wellness Foundation, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), Ford Foundation, Friedman Family Foundation, Walter and Elise Haas, Jr. Fund, the James Irvine Foundation, Marin Community Foundation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Sierra Health Foundation, Sierra Health Foundation Center for Health Program Management, WhyNot Initiative.
Additionally, the California Budget & Policy Center events have been sponsored by a wide variety of left-wing California-based organizations such as the First 5 Association, the California Health Care Foundation, Health4all.org, and the Stuart Foundation.
The California Budget & Policy Center’s current executive director is Chris Hoene, Hoene has served in this post since October 2012. Prior to that, Hoene was the director at the Center for Research and Innovation at the National League of Cities in Washington, D.C.
The California Budget & Policy Center’s board of directors includes a number of individuals who lead other organizations with liberal constituencies such as Alma Hernández, the Executive Director of the SEIU California; John Kim, the Executive Director of Advancement Project California; and Frank Mecca the Executive Director at the County Welfare Directors Association of California.