PPIC's Commentary RSS Feedhttp://www.ppic.org/en-usCopyright 2014 PPIC All Rights Reserved.Thu, 24 Jul 2014 12:18:13 PDTPublic Policy Institute of California : Commentary Beyond the Drought: 10 Big Changes Ahead for California Water http://www.ppic.org/main/commentary.asp?i=1428 <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=72"><img height="74" width="81" align="right" alt="" src="http://www.ppic.org/content/portraits/StaffPhoto-Hanak.jpg" style="margin-left: 15px; margin-bottom: 5px;" /></a>By <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=72">Ellen Hanak</a>, senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California<br /> <img src="/content/images/spacer_transparent_10x5.gif" title="" alt="" /><br /> January 13, 2014<br /> <br /> <br /> These days, all water news in California is focused on the weather. After two successive dry years, this year’s rainy season has yet to make a decent showing. Unless the skies open soon, the state seems firmly headed for a major drought, with serious implications for the farm economy, some water-scarce communities, and the fish and other species that depend on our rivers and streams. <br /> <br /> Periodic droughts are inevitable in California, given the state’s highly variable climate, and many scientists expect such extreme events to become more frequent with climate change. An essential part of water management in California is preparing for this inevitability—with <a target="_blank" href="http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=1041">multi-pronged strategies that include water marketing, groundwater banking,</a> conservation, and investment in non-traditional supplies like recycled wastewater. Each drought provides an opportunity to get better at stretching scarce supplies and reducing the economic hardship caused by water scarcity, as <a href="http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/report/R_1209EHR.pdf">PPIC’s California Water Myths report</a> points out. <br /> <br /> I recently wrote a piece—with Jay Lund, PPIC adjunct fellow and UC Davis professor—for the UC Davis <a target="_blank" href="http://californiawaterblog.com/2014/01/07/resistance-is-futile-inevitable-changes-to-water-management-in-california/">Center for Watershed Sciences’ California WaterBlog that highlights 10 other inevitable changes</a> in store for California water. These changes range from vulnerable levees and uncertain water supply conditions in the Delta to deteriorating groundwater basins to the shrinking Salton Sea. To minimize hardship and disruption, most of the items on our top 10 list will—like droughts—require significant preparation and planning. This is often hard to do, given the tradeoffs and costs of most water management solutions. But we think that preparation is the best way to reduce the pain and develop a water policy that supports the kind of state Californians want, rather than wishfully thinking that California can avoid change. Mon, 13 Jan 2014 00:00:00 PDT Are You a Have or a Have-Not? Californians’ Views http://www.ppic.org/main/commentary.asp?i=1425 <table width="" align="" style="width: 360px; border-collapse: collapse;"> <tbody> <tr> <td style="vertical-align: top;"> <p>By <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=298">Dean Bonner</a>, research associate, Public Policy Institute of California<br /> <br /> January 8, 2014</p></td> <td style="padding: 0px; text-align: right; vertical-align: top;"><a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=298"> <div><img width="90" height="81" style="margin-left: 15px;" src="/content/portraits/staffphoto-bonner.jpg" alt="" /></div></a></td> </tr> </tbody> </table><br /> <p>As the nation marks the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, it’s clear that income inequality is an issue that resonates with Californians today. According to <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=1077">the latest PPIC Statewide Survey</a>, a record-high 66 percent of residents said the state is divided into haves and have-nots. When asked to characterize themselves Californians are split, with 40 percent saying they are part of the haves and 45 percent saying they are part of the have-nots. But this split obscures a striking change since 2002, when 60 percent viewed themselves as part of the haves and just 32 percent viewed themselves as part of the have-nots.<br /> </p><img width="360" height="262" src="/content/images/blogpostgraphic_bonner_01-08-14-upper2.jpg" title="" alt="" /><br /> <span class="secondary_body"><span class="footer_copy">Sources: PPIC Statewide Surveys: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/survey/S_902MBS.pdf">September 2002</a> and <a target="_blank" href="http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=1077">December 2013</a></span>.</span><br /> <br /> <p>The legislature is also taking notice and has established a <span style="font-weight: bold;"><a href="http://sd07.senate.ca.gov/news/2013-12-12-senator-desaulnier-launches-caucus-end-poverty-and-inequality-california"></a></span><a href="http://sd07.senate.ca.gov/news/2013-12-12-senator-desaulnier-launches-caucus-end-poverty-and-inequality-california">new legislative caucus</a> focusing on poverty and inequality. Part of the mission of the caucus is to increase economic opportunity for all Californians.</p> Wed, 8 Jan 2014 00:00:00 PDT Californians and the Climate Gap http://www.ppic.org/main/commentary.asp?i=1421 <table width="" align="" style="width: 360px; border-collapse: collapse;"> <tbody> <tr> <td style="vertical-align: top;"> <p>By <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=299">Sonja Petek</a>, research associate, Public Policy Institute of California<br /> <br /> December 3, 2013 </p></td> <td style="padding: 0px; text-align: right; vertical-align: top;"><a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=299"> <div><img width="90" height="81" style="margin-left: 15px;" src="/content/portraits/staffphoto-petek.jpg" alt="" /></div></a></td> </tr> </tbody> </table><br /> <p> Climate change will have an especially negative impact on racial and ethnic minorities and lower-income Californians, according to <span style="font-style: italic;"><a href="http://dornsife.usc.edu/pere/documents/The_Climate_Gap_Full_Report_FINAL.pdf ">The Climate Gap</a></span>, an important report by a team of university researchers. The effects of global warming—such as heat waves and increased air pollution—will have greater effects on disadvantaged communities. These communities may not have the resources to adapt to changing conditions and are likely to have fewer job opportunities if employment in agriculture and tourism diminishes. The findings from this 2009 report resonate today.</p> <p> It might seem that the immediate material concerns of disadvantaged Californians would make them less inclined to worry about environmental issues. <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/series.asp?i=12">PPIC Statewide Surveys</a> have found the opposite to be true: racial/ethnic minorities and lower-income residents are overwhelmingly concerned about global warming and among the most ardent supporters of policies to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.</p> <p><a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=1065">PPIC’s latest survey on the environment</a> found little doubt about the existence of global warming among Asians, blacks, Latinos, and lower-income residents. Majorities say the effects have already begun, and fewer than one in ten say they will never happen. Latinos, blacks, and lower-income Californians are more likely than Asians, whites, and those with higher incomes to express concern about impacts of global warming such as increased flooding and wildfires, droughts, and storms that are more severe. And they are far more likely to perceive global warming as a very serious threat to California’s future economy and quality of life.</p> <p> The high level of concern among racial/ethnic minorities and lower-income Californians goes hand in hand with their awareness of the climate gap. Among the state’s communities of color, Latinos and blacks in particular are mindful of environmental disparities. They are twice as likely as Asians and whites to consider regional air pollution a big problem, and far more likely to say that air pollution is an especially serious health threat in lower-income areas. Overwhelming majorities of blacks and Latinos say it is very important to spend some of the state’s cap-and-trade revenue to improve environmental conditions in disadvantaged communities, as state law now requires. (Far fewer Asians and whites hold this view.)</p> <p> These concerns and perceptions translate into overwhelming support for policy intervention. Latinos (88%) and blacks (83%)—along with Asians (78%)—are more likely than whites (65%) to say it is necessary to take action right away to counter the effects of global warming. There is strong support across all groups for California’s landmark legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020: more than seven in ten Latinos and Asians are in favor, as are about six in ten blacks and whites. And overwhelming majorities of lower-income residents and racial/ethnic minorities support a variety of policies to reduce emissions—such as requiring industrial plants, oil refineries, and commercial facilities to reduce their emissions, or requiring oil companies to produce cleaner transportation fuels. Large percentages of whites are also supportive.</p> <p> California’s lower-income residents and communities of color have traditionally lacked a strong voice in statewide policymaking. But that may be changing. Now that whites are a minority of the state’s adult population, the environmental priorities of racial and ethnic communities could influence future policy in a way that helps close the climate gap.</p> Tue, 3 Dec 2013 00:00:00 PDT Food Stamps and Poverty in California http://www.ppic.org/main/commentary.asp?i=1412 <p><img width="91" height="82" align="right" alt="" title="" src="/content/portraits/staffphoto-danielson.jpg" style="margin-left: 15px;" />By <a href="bio.asp?i=315">Caroline Danielson</a>, research fellow, and Matt Levin, research associate, Public Policy Institute of California <br /> <br /> November 13, 2013 </p> <p> More than 4.2 million Californians who rely on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, are seeing a reduction in their benefits this month. The 2009 federal stimulus bill had provided a temporary increase in these benefits—known as CalFresh in California—but this increase expired on November 1.</p> <p> How much smaller is the CalFresh benefit now? A family of four earning $1,750 a month (about $10 an hour for a full-time worker) received $296 in CalFresh assistance in October, but is now receiving $260. (<a href="http://californiabudgetbites.org/2013/10/30/looming-cut-to-calfresh-will-slash-households-food-budgets-drain-millions-of-dollars-from-california-economy/">This report</a> by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities provides additional background.)</p> <p> In light of this benefit reduction and the debates in Congress around further cuts to this program , it’s worth taking stock of the role CalFresh plays in bolstering the resources of low-income families here in California.</p> <p> Last month, PPIC and the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality released the <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=1070">California Poverty Measure</a> (CPM), a new tool for measuring economic hardship in the state. Unlike official U.S. Census poverty rates, the CPM includes CalFresh and other important safety net programs in its accounting of family resources. The CPM also incorporates the state’s high cost of living and other factors to create a more accurate assessment than the official poverty measure does of what it takes to make ends meet.</p> <p> The November cut was not large enough to markedly increase CPM poverty rates, but the CPM does show the substantial role that CalFresh plays in helping low-income families.</p> <p> When we consider programs targeted to these families, CalFresh is second only to federal refundable tax credits, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, or <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/about/programs/metro/eitc/eitc-homepage">EITC</a>, in lowering poverty rates. Without CalFresh benefits, the state’s overall poverty rate under the CPM would be more than two percentage points higher: 24.2 percent instead of 22.0 percent. What’s more, Californians’ participation in food stamps is <a href="http://www.fns.usda.gov/reaching-those-need-state-supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-participation-rates-2010">low relative to other states</a>, implying that the program’s role in easing poverty could be even larger if more eligible Californians accessed the benefits.</p> <p> The difference CalFresh makes to the child poverty rate is even greater. The child poverty rate would be 29.2 percent—rather than our estimated 25.1 percent—if we remove CalFresh from family resources entirely. That amounts to an additional 380,000 children who would have fallen below the CPM poverty line in 2011, the most recent year for which data are available. (To see how other elements of the safety net affect California poverty rates, take a look at this <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/page.asp?i=1398">interactive data visualization tool</a>.)</p> <p> Just how large a share of family budgets does CalFresh comprise? (By "budget” we mean all of the family’s post-tax resources, including income from a range of safety net programs). For families with at least one child, CalFresh benefits account for about 16 percent of the family budget, on average. (At 62 percent, earnings make up the largest share.) And CalFresh not only provides nutrition support, it also frees up other family resources to meet needs like transportation and housing.</p> <p> As the funding debate over food stamps continues, it is worth keeping in mind the substantial role this program plays in the lives of many Californians.</p> Wed, 13 Nov 2013 00:00:00 PDT Measuring Poverty in California http://www.ppic.org/main/commentary.asp?i=1406 <p><img width="91" height="82" align="right" alt="" title="" src="http://www.ppic.org/content/portraits/staffphoto-bohn.jpg" style="margin-left: 15px;" />By <a href="bio.asp?i=375">Sarah Bohn</a> and <a href="bio.asp?i=315">Caroline Danielson</a>, research fellows at the Public Policy Institute of California <br /> <br /> November 6, 2013 </p><br /> <img width="91" height="82" align="right" alt="" title="" src="/content/portraits/staffphoto-danielson.jpg" style="margin-left: 15px;" />Estimates published by the Census Bureau today indicate that California is the most impoverished state in the nation. According to the <a href="http://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/p60-247.pdf" target="_blank">Supplemental Poverty Measure</a>, 23.8 percent of Californians do not have the resources they need to maintain a basic standard of living. <br /> <br /> Who are California’s poor? How many are children? Elderly? Southern Californians? Central Valley residents? The Census Bureau’s estimates provide limited answers to these questions. PPIC and the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, together, have created a measure, the <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=1070">California Poverty Measure (CPM)</a>, that offers more. <br /> <br /> Our estimates – based on a methodology similar to what the Census uses but created specifically for California – suggest that 22 percent, or about 8 million Californians, are poor. They include 2.3 million children, 800,000 older adults, and nearly 5 million working-age adults. About half of the poor in the state live in Southern California (specifically, in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego Counties, where most Californians live to begin with). <br /> <br /> Our approach to measuring hardship is similar in spirit to what the Census does with the Supplemental Poverty measure. The CPM rate is lower for a number of reasons, but an important one is our effort to accurately measure the resources families receive from safety net programs. <br /> <br /> When we compare the CPM to official poverty rates, even bigger differences emerge in the view of California poverty. The official poverty measure—also calculated by the Census—does not rank California as the most impoverished state. Instead, it indicates that 16.5 percent of Californians are poor, which ties California with New York as the 14th most impoverished in the country. <br /> <br /> Why does the official poverty rate show that a strikingly smaller percentage of Californians are poor? The official statistic is more restricted in the scope of what it measures: It only takes into account a family’s cash income gauged against a nationwide poverty "line” based on family size. The CPM includes resources from a range of social safety net programs, in part so it can capture the end result of government support programs. (Both measures revise the poverty lines to reflect regional differences in the cost of housing.) <br /> <br /> We developed the California Poverty Measure to make a more realistic, comprehensive assessment both of family resources and of California’s typically high cost of living. We found that the state’s higher costs often outweigh the resources counted into family budgets from social programs like food stamps and school meals. For this reason, the California Poverty Measure finds more than two million more poor Californians than the official poverty measure does. What’s more, we find that many more families would be living in poverty without the assistance that such programs provide (<a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/page.asp?i=1398">our interactive graphic provides the details</a>). Wed, 6 Nov 2013 00:00:00 PDT State's Water Funding Habit Must Change http://www.ppic.org/main/commentary.asp?i=1384 <table style="width: 100%; border-collapse: collapse;"> <tbody> <tr> <td style="vertical-align: top;"> <p>By <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=72">Ellen Hanak</a>, senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, Brian Gray, professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, and <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=354">Jay Lund</a>, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis</p> <p>This commentary was published on August 25, 2013, in the <span style="font-style: italic;">Sacramento Bee</span></p> <p> In recent weeks, work has begun in earnest in the Capitol to revamp the water bond that will go before California voters in November 2014. Everyone seems to agree that the new bond needs to be smaller than the $11 billion bond currently slated for that ballot, which polling suggests is more than the voters are likely to approve. But agreeing on what the new bond should include is proving harder. Our advice? This is an opportunity to put California on a more sustainable water funding diet – with a balanced portfolio that relies less on periodic injections of general-fund-backed debt. </p></td> <td style="padding: 0px; text-align: right; vertical-align: top;"><a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=72"> <div><img width="81" height="74" border="0" alt="" src="http://www.ppic.org/content/portraits/StaffPhoto-Hanak.jpg" /></div></a> <div><img border="0" align="right" alt="white spacer" src="/content/images/whitespacer_image_sm.gif" /></div> <div><img width="81" height="74" border="0" alt="" src="http://www.ppic.org/content/portraits/Gray.jpg" /></div> <div><img border="0" align="right" alt="white spacer" src="/content/images/whitespacer_image_sm.gif" /></div><a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/bio.asp?i=354"><img width="80" height="72" style="margin-top: 4px;" alt="" src="http://www.ppic.org/content/portraits/StaffPhoto-Lund.jpg" /></a></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p> A bit of background on the current bond dilemma: From 2000 to 2006, California voters approved six general obligation bonds for water-related purposes, totaling more than $23 billion (in today's dollars). This is nearly three times as much as the sums approved in the preceding 30 years, and it translated into generous state programs to support local water, wastewater, flood protection, ecosystem restoration and parks. By the time the Legislature approved the proposed $11 billion bond in late 2009, water managers had gotten used to a steady stream of funds, and a new bond was needed to maintain it.</p> <p> Since then, however, voters – who foot the bill through repayments out of the state's general fund – seem to have lost some of their enthusiasm for bonds.</p> <p> Weak public support has already led the Legislature to postpone sending this measure to the voters twice, and the current overhaul aims to make the price tag more palatable. This inevitably means elimination of projects that matter to someone. At the same time, existing water and restoration funds are running out, and the pressure is on to pass a new bond.</p> <p> There are no magic recipes that will resolve this dilemma to everyone's satisfaction. But California can take some steps now to get on a healthier path.</p> <li><span style="font-weight: bold;"> Admit we need to go on a bond diet:</span> Even if voters approve a bond next November, the future stream of state bond funds for water projects is likely to be much smaller than what the sector has enjoyed in the recent past. Bonds have supported many valuable activities, but the easy money has also made us lazy about pursuing other funding options. The litmus test for whether an activity deserves bond funding shouldn't simply be whether it is valuable, but whether bonds reimbursed with general tax revenue are the best way to pay for it.</li><br /> <li><span style="font-weight: bold;"> Create incentives to consume less:</span> One important alternative to bonds is directly charging local residents and businesses that consume the state's water. Indeed, the lion's share of the $34 billion spent annually on water-related activities already comes from local water and sewer rates. This user fee approach is often superior to bond funding because it aligns incentives: When water users pay for new supplies through higher water bills, they are encouraged to use water more efficiently.</li><br /> <p> Increased efficiency makes more water available for environmental and recreational uses and reduces future demands for additional water projects.</p> <li><span style="font-weight: bold;"> Make healthy, balanced choices:</span> We propose focusing scarce taxpayer dollars on activities that meet one of three broad goals. The first goal is to address social equity – by, for example, making safe drinking water available in impoverished communities. The second goal is to generate broad public benefits – enhancing the ecosystem in the Delta, where most California residents have contributed to current environmental problems, is one example. The third goal is to leverage innovative management behavior that might not otherwise occur because of high startup costs. This goal provided justification for supporting integrated regional water management – which helped bring local agencies together to tackle problems jointly – in recent bonds. Now that these regional groups are up and running, we should be finding ways to make these programs self-financing – for example, with regional fees – and use bonds to support other innovations.</li><br /> <li><span style="font-weight: bold;"> Help Californians read the labels:</span> One key to making healthy spending choices is transparency. The Legislature and water managers should clearly define both the benefits of proposed bond expenditures and the sources of bond repayment, rather than hoping that Californians won't realize a bond will cost them money (in terms of new tax revenue or reduced spending on something else in the state budget).</li><br /> <li><span style="font-weight: bold;"> Establish better habits for the long-term:</span> The Legislature's job won't be done when it agrees on the contents of a new bond. Right now, some activities – such as flood and stormwater management and environmental mitigation – face difficult funding hurdles. The Legislature could improve the sustainability of the system by removing barriers to local funding, encouraging the development of regional funding systems, and improving the capacity of the water sector to pay for itself.</li> Sun, 25 Aug 2013 00:00:00 PDT