Legislative Analyst’s Office Forecasts $68 Billion Budget Deficit
Last week, the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office projected that California faces a $68 billion budget deficit heading into the Fiscal Year 2024-25 Budget cycle, more than twice the deficit lawmakers confronted in addressing the current 2023-24 Budget.
The revelation puts lawmakers and advocacy organizations in a tight position when it comes to negotiating Budget priorities between now and June 30 (Governor Newsom will release his initial proposed budget no later than January 10). It’s also a dire sign for potential 2024 policy bills that could have state fiscal impacts. In addition to the massive bill cullings that occurred in the Assembly and Senate appropriations committees last year, a Politico analysisfound that the state’s fiscal circumstances formed the justification for more than 40% of Newsom’s 156 vetoes in 2023.
The fiscal shortfall will be an early test for new legislative leadership. 2024 will be the first full year of Speaker Rober Rivas’ (D-Hollister) tenure helming the Assembly, and Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) is set to be sworn in as the new President pro tempore of the Senate on February 5. Rivas’ new picks to lead the Assembly Budget Committee and its various subcommittees will be confronted by the Budget shortfall when they take their chairs two weeks after the initial proposed budget is released (for more information, see last week’s Legislative Bulletin).
CCA will continue to push for our Budget priorities – including wolf compensation, prescribed grazing infrastructure and wildfire resilience – despite the latest deficit projections. It should be noted that the state’s deficit projections could improve in the months to come.
Former Speaker McCarthy Announces Congressional Retirement
Former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) announced in the Wall Street Journal last week that he will retire from Congress at the end of this year. McCarthy’s ouster from the Speakership earlier this year was a blow to California Republicans in swing districts who had benefitted from his fundraising might, as well as to agricultural interests in the state which had long been elevated on the national stage by the powerful lawmaker.
McCarthy’s departure is likely to necessitate a special election to serve out the remainder of his term ahead of the November 2024 General Election, though it is not yet clear whether that special election can be consolidated with the March 5 Primary Election or whether it will necessitate standalone balloting.
McCarthy’s deep-red district is all but certain to elect another Republican to fill his seat. Assemblyman Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield), who formerly served as McCarthy’s district director, announced his bid for the seat this morning. Sen. Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) announced yesterday that she “will not seek election to Congress in 2024” but will instead continue to serve out her current term in the State Senate.
USDA FSA Now Accepting Online Farm Loan Applications
USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced last week that the agency has developed an online application process for direct farm loan customers. According to FSA, the new online format provides an “interactive, guided application that is paperless and provides helpful features including an electronic signature option, the ability to attach supporting documents such as tax returns, complete a balance sheet and build a farm operating plan.”
Currently, the online application is limited to those operating their farm or ranch as an individual (though FSA notes that the service will be rolled out to married couples filing jointly and to other legal entities throughout 2024). To use the online application, users must create a USDA customer account and a Login.gov account. Applicants can track the progress of their loan applications via a personalized dashboard by completing FSA’s Loan Assistance Tool here.
For ranchers still utilizing paper farm loan applications, FSA has announced that the application has been simplified to 13 pages from its prior 29-page format.
For more information, see USDA’s press release, here, or contact your local USDA service center.
FSA Waives Notice of Loss Requirements for Two Livestock Disaster Assistance Programs
The USDA Farm Service Agency announced late last month that it has waived deadlines to file notices of loss for 2023 under the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-raised Fish (ELAP) program and the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP). Producers have until January 30, 2024 to file a claim under ELAP, and until February 29, 2024 to file a claim under LIP. In addition to extending the deadlines to file notices of loss for 2023, FSA has announced that its county committees will reevaluate all LIP and ELAP applications which have thus far been denied on the grounds of late filing this year. For more information, see FSA’s announcement, here, or last week’s edition of Legislative Bulletin.