SAN DIEGO–The County of San Diego took legal action this week to stop the state from taking $1 billion from early childhood programs to fill California’s budget gap. The lawsuit seeks to overturn AB 99, a bill signed by Governor Jerry Brown on March 24 claiming that it is illegal because it redirects funds in a way that is not consistent with Proposition 10’s mandate as approved by the voters.
Prop 10, also known as the Children and Families First Act of 1998, imposed a tax on tobacco products and mandated that the funds be used exclusively to support comprehensive programs for early childhood development. Eighty percent of the tobacco tax goes to local First 5 commissions for the express purpose of funding local programs and services that support the healthy development of children from the prenatal stage through age 5.
“The intent of Proposition 10, as approved by the voters, is local control of funds to meet local needs for early childhood development,” said Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, Chair of the First 5 Commission of San Diego. “AB 99 will result in a loss of $88.3 million in local funds – these funds are designated for services to children and families in San Diego County.”
The governor’s recently revised 2011-2012 budget, released on May 16 does not include the $1 billion the state had planned to take from First 5 Commissions through AB 99, however it does indicate that the state will defend legal challenges against the move.
“It is encouraging that Prop 10 revenues are no longer counted on to backfill the state’s budget shortfall for this coming year,” said Slater-Price. “I ask the Governor to rescind the cut outlined in AB 99 so that precious dollars can go to local services for children and families rather than in pursuing litigation.”