Brown Proposes Eliminating All State Funding for California Libraries

[A rhetorically dull, “nonviolent” proposal to totally eliminate library funding in the world’s 8th largest economy]

California Governor Jerry Brown released a proposed budget for FY11/12 on Monday that would eliminate all state funding for libraries.

Brown’s shock-and-awe, $84.6 billion budget, which still must work its way through the state legislature, would cut state spending by $12.5 billion and include a “vast and historic” restructuring of government operations.

This would mean the loss of $30.4 million for three of the state’s most important public library programs: the Public Library Fund ($12.9 million), Transaction Based Reimbursement ($12.9 million), and the California Library Literacy and English Acquisition Service ($4.6 million).

Paymaneh Maghsoudi, the president of the California Library Association (CLA) and the director of the Whittier Public Library, immediately condemned the move.

“The revelation … that Governor Brown is proposing to eliminate all $30 million in state funding for three of California’s most valuable public library programs …is both disastrous and disheartening,” she said in a press release.

Maghsoudi said that library funding had already been cut 75 percent under the two previous administrations.

“The public libraries have done more than their share to assist with the budget deficit over the years by absorbing painful cuts,” she said. “The time has come to stop the bleeding and CLA respectfully asks the members of the legislature to oppose these proposed cuts to our valuable programs.”

In a statement on the governor’s website, Brown defended his proposal.

“These cuts will be painful, requiring sacrifice from every sector of the state, but we have no choice,” Brown said. “For 10 years, we’ve had budget gimmicks and tricks that pushed us deep into debt. We must now return California to fiscal responsibility and get our state on the road to economic recovery and job growth.”

The spending plan would eliminate an 18-month budget gap estimated at $25.4 billion ($8.2 billion for the current year and a budget-year deficit of $17.2 billion). Brown’s budget proposes $12.5 billion in spending reductions, $12 billion in revenue extensions and modifications, and $1.9 billion in other areas to close the gap and provide for a $1 billion reserve.

Fewer hours, staff cuts, program impacts
Maghsoudi said the proposed budget would result in reduced library hours, staff cuts, and the dismantling of Transaction Based Reimbursement, a cooperative system of borrowing and loaning books that has existed statewide for over 30 years.

Eliminating funding for the state literacy program “would be truly heartbreaking for individuals and families who desperately need this assistance,” she said.

The Public Library Fund, which provides direct state aid to public libraries for basic service, has never received its full appropriation from the legislature, but this cut would represent a new low. In its first year, 1983, the state appropriation was $6 million, and has varied from $56.8 million. (80 percent of full funding) in 1999/00 to $12.9 million (12 percent of full funding) in 2008/09.

American Library Association president Roberta Stevens also was critical of Brown’s proposal.

“Every service hour lost in our libraries translates into a million lost opportunities to connect people to distance education, unemployment benefits, and other e-government services,” she said in a press release. “I encourage Governor Brown not to bury his head in the sand and work to understand the value of public libraries. It is clear that the governor’s proposal to reduce funding for public libraries in the state of California must be re-evaluated.”

Other programs are not spared the budget ax, including health-care programs such as Medi-Cal as well as $500 million cuts to both the California State University and the University of California. The only sectors to avoid cuts were K- 12 education and the state’s prison system.

The legislature is scheduled to take action on the budget by March.

By Michael Kelley Jan 12, 2011