PCL Insider – June 2023

Governor’s 2023-24 Budget Trailer Bills

Trailer bills are becoming a routine part of California’s budget process. Making wide-ranging policy changes behind closed doors in the mad rush to pass the state’s annual spending plan by the constitutional deadline can be undemocratic and a pathway to bad policy.

The 2023-24 budget and the flood of trailer bills that came out in mid-May were unique. The budget itself saw a massive delay in projected revenues due to disaster proclamations postponing the tax filing deadline in California this last winter and spring as well as a shortfall in personal income taxes due to changes in the stock market and the impacts on high-income residents’ tax bills. Beyond the revenue drop, there was something else that stood out, the sheer number and breadth of the Governor’s proposed budget trailer bills – things the Governor wanted to be passed as a package with the budget and within the budget deadlines.

Of particular concern to PCL were bills that encompassed substantial changes in water policy, CEQA processes, endangered species protections, and substantially rolled back CEQA as it would apply to transportation, water, and other unidentified projects to be “named later.” One bill would have sped up the approval of and the ultimate construction of the delta conveyance project to ship more water south. You can see the full list of the governor’s proposals at: https://esd.dof.ca.gov/trailer-bill/trailerBill.html

PCL joined with more than 100 organizations to sign a joint letter expressing concerns over many of the Governor’s proposed trailer bills.  In addition to the concerns with the use of the trailer bill process to enact sweeping changes to important laws that protect the environment and public health, we called for substantial changes to a number of these trailer bill proposals.  Read the letter sent to legislative leaders and the governor.

In a deal struck over the remaining days before the budget deadline, legislative leaders were able to improve on the proposals from the Governor including protecting the completeness of administrative records in CEQA cases, dropping the delta tunnel/conveyance from the package, restoring funding for many important environmental and wildlife programs, retaining the fully protected species status in California law, and more. The budget committees of each house and then the full legislature will take votes on most of the trailer bills in the days to follow, the urgency measure will require 2/3rd votes on the floor.

The agreement reached between the legislature and governor includes support for the associated budget trailer and the following policy bills:

  • AB 122 – Joshua Tree (Committee on Budget)
  • AB 124 – Green Bank and Energy (Committee on Budget)
  • AB 126 – Clean transportation (Reyes)
  • SB 145 – Caltrans Advanced Mitigation and I-15 Wildlife Crossings (Newman)
  • SB 146 – Progressive Design Build, Job Order Contracting, NEPA Assignment (Gonzalez and Friedman)
  • SB 147 – Fully Protected Species (Ashby)
  • SB 149 – Expedited Judicial Review, Administrative Record Reform (Caballero and Becker)
  • SB 150 – Equity (Durazo, Smallwood Cuevas, Gonzalez, Cortese, and L. Rivas)

The Senate Infrastructure Select Committee met on Thursday, June 29th to hear all of the bills above and they have posted analyses for each of them.

PCL was engaged all along the way with many other partners to try to make the ensuing budget deal the best it could be and make sure the most concerning of the proposals were eliminated. We feel this was largely accomplished, and we give our great thanks to the many legislators and advocates that helped make it happen…but we still object to trying to rush policies of this scope and importance through the budget process.