More Funding for Tech, Broadband, Mobile ID in Revised Newsom Budget Proposal

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed 2021-2022 Fiscal Year state budget has grown to $267.8 billion in its May revision and could fund a variety of IT- and innovation-related projects.

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Swelled by federal coronavirus aid and tax revenue, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revision of his proposed 2021-2022 Fiscal Year budget, at $267.8 billion, is larger virtually all around than the $227.2 billion document he delivered in January.

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It’s still a proposal; the new fiscal year doesn’t start until July 1, and according to the state Constitution, the Legislature has until June 15 to approve the budget. But the so-called “May revision,” which Newsom presented to lawmakers Friday, literally has an increase for every state agency – documented here with rounding. These range from 1.6 percent for the California Health and Human Services Agency to 116 percent for “General Government,” which includes the California Department of Food and Agriculture, to 17 percent for the California Government Operations Agency, which includes the California Department of Technology (CDT). That’s a striking economic reversal from last year’s model, which projected a $53.4 billion shortfall. Techwire will continue to examine Newsom’s proposed budget and its vetting process this spring, but here are several significant immediate highlights for technology vendors:

  • CDT would see its proposed departmental budget rise from nearly $493 million in January to more than $546 million in the May revision. That’s a nearly 11 percent increase and includes the proposed addition of 12 new positions, which would grow the department’s ranks from 882 to 894. This article may be updated as aspects of the May revision are still being posted online, but since January, CDT has submitted five Budget Change Proposals (BCP) – the most recent of which appeared Monday. It seeks “Technology Modernization funding” – a one-time infusion of $50 million from the general fund to provide “funding for IT solutions in a timely and accountable manner.” The department intends to use the money to “quickly implement proactive solutions” laid out in its January BCP on stabilizing critical services and IT infrastructure – which asked for 17 positions, $11.4 million from the general fund in FY 2021-22, $9.4 million in FY 2022-23 and $6.4 million ongoing as well as augmented resources to support the state’s Broadband for All initiative. In Monday’s BCP, CDT asks the appropriation be available until June 30, 2024, to let the department “assess and fund stabilization and improvement proposals seamlessly.” It estimates the appropriation “would fund 10 to 25 system stabilization improvements and solutions.” This, the department said in the BCP, would “provide a resource enabling the timely funding of smaller and iterative modernization efforts” while creating transparency by setting up the appropriation as a new budget item. The solutions haven’t been identified yet but will be chosen in part by “evaluating small strategic proposals submitted by state entities using the existing Stage 1 Business Analysis document” and via criteria including return on investment, assessment of criticality, “viable, fast path to delivery (less than 12 months)” and whether it supports statewide goals, including those in the Vision 2023 plan. Two earlier BCPs in April sought nearly $2.3 million from the general fund to continue developing a “reimagined” ca.gov, the state’s web portal; and $1.1 million from the general fund to deploy Digital ID.
  • Spending on kindergarten through 12th grade education would rise too, and the California Department of Education would see its departmental budget grow from $86.3 billion to $98.9 billion, a 14.59 percent increase. Making broadband “accessible and affordable for educational, employment and health purposes” remains a key priority, the state said in the Introduction to the May revision, indicating it includes a plan “to achieve equitable statewide access to high-speed broadband Internet service” via a $7 billion investment to expand broadband infrastructure and improve access.
  • The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) continues working to streamline its processes ahead of the new May 3, 2023 deadline for residents to obtain the federally mandated Real ID, with “expanded kiosk deployment,” a website redesign and the use of robotic process automation. The May revision, the state said, would continue these improvements and provide resources for “a new Mobile Identity (mID) Program.” In the May revision, DMV’s proposed departmental budget would rise from $1.4 billion to $1.7 billion. In a BCP made available Friday, the department seeks 258 permanent positions and $186.3 million in FY 2021-22, $105.7 million in FY 2022-23 and $86.3 million in FY 2023-24 as well as $30.8 million in FY 2024-25 from the general fund to continue implementing Real ID. Projects include “customer service improvements such as the Real ID Automated Document Verification Project and a range of online chat services to improve access to DMV’s services outside of the field offices” plus “much needed IT improvements, such as a replacement of outdated and unreliable terminals, servers, circuits and other information technology resources to support the new online services,” per the BCP.
  • The departmental budget for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services would rise from $1.85 billion to $2.3 billion and it would receive an additional $133.9 million from the general fund to “enhance state and local emergency preparedness and response.” This would include standing up a Wildfire Forecast and Threat Intelligence Integration Center. Specifically, Newsom proposes providing $7.4 million and 22 positions for Cal OES, the California Military Department, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) and the California Public Utilities Commission to implement state Senate Bill 209. The bill required Cal OES and CAL FIRE to create a Wildfire Forecast and Threat Intelligence Integration Center to deliver “‘real-time’ intelligence and data regarding wildfire threats to government agencies” and well as “intelligence products for public and private entities involved in wildfire risk mitigation efforts” and to be a “central organizing hub for wildfire forecasting, weather information, threat intelligence gathering and analysis.” This would be in addition to $2 million in “ongoing general fund” monies from the 2020 state budget and bring the total to $9.6 million.

    Thom Porter, CAL FIRE director, characterized the Center to Techwire as “much like a hurricane awareness center,” to ensure “we’re monitoring weather conditions and adjusting our operations accordingly for all hazards including atmospheric rivers and any type of wildfire type weather,” during a media call Friday. It would be housed at Cal OES’ Sacramento location.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Techwire.