At a recent forum at UCLA, Brown admitted, ""I thought long and hard before I ran for this job. I didn't quite know it was this bad. We've been living in a fantasy world. It's much worse than I thought."
Brown described California's looming $28 billion deficit as a "perfect storm," with current annual spending levels of:
* K-12 education: $49 billion
* Medi-Cal (California's medical welfare program): $17.6 billion
* State employee payroll: $9.2 billion (67% in Corrections)
* All state prisons: $9 billion
* Funding for UCs and CSUs: $5.4 billion
* Services to the developmentally disabled: $3.1 billion
* CalWORKs (California's "welfare to work" program): $3 billion
* State mental health hospitals: $1.2 billion
* In-Home supportive services: $1.7 billion
He added that California's costs for implementing the federal health reform law could be as high as $3.5 billion. Drawing on a recent Stanford University study, Brown also noted that California faces roughly $500 billion in unfunded liabilities for state employee pension plans.
"We're at an unprecedented moment of reckoning," Brown said. "This perfect storm is, I think, the worst it's ever been, because we're not in quite the same position as the Great Depression. Government played a much smaller role in the life of our communities than it plays today. Now when we get this level of deficit, it has a much more drastic impact."
With no easy solutions in sight, Brown has called for leadership from those in California who are doing well despite the economic downturn or who are already beginning to experience economic recovery:
"Those who are the most privileged really have to take the lead," he said. "Remember, we're not poor. We're one of the wealthiest places on the whole planet. So the question is, How do we as a democratic society not just say, 'Me, me,' and 'I want, I want'? We have to work it out."
An increasing number of California companies may be able to accept Brown's leadership challenge in 2011, according to recent forecasts by UCLA and Chapman University. Both forecasts predict that the California economy will expand faster than the rest of nation's in 2011, with increased global demand expected for products that favor California manufacturing, including computers, electronics, medical devices, and aerospace components.
Through strategic partnerships with the Tri-Valley Community Foundation, businesses operating in the Tri-Valley region have already been leading the way during the economic downturn to fill gaps in funding for education and critical health and human services. Headquartered in Pleasanton, the Foundation works closely with local government and education leaders to track funding shortfalls and to create collaborative philanthropic partnerships that sustain important community and educational programs threatened by budget cuts.
"Many of the nonprofit organizations in the Tri-Valley that serve our neediest neighbors rely on state and federal funding to keep their doors open--organizations such as Axis Community Health in Pleasanton and the Tri-Valley Housing and Opportunity Center in Livermore," said David Rice, president of the Tri-Valley Community Foundation.
"In response to government budget cuts, the Foundation is committed to working with our donors and corporate partners to sustain vital nonprofit services in the Tri-Valley region," he added.
Through its strategic partnership with the Foundation, Hacienda Business Park companies were able to bridge funding gaps for over 20 health, human services, and education programs in the Tri-Valley in 2010. The 2011 Hacienda Helping Hands campaign--a collaborative charitable project of Hacienda and the Tri-Valley Community Foundation--is currently under way, with a goal of providing even more support to nonprofits challenged by the current California budget crisis.
The Tri-Valley Community Foundation also partnered with the Pleasanton Weekly, its readers, local businesses and the federal government's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to raise $500,000 through last year's Holiday Fund for the benefit of families hard hit by unemployment. The Valley Real Estate Network contributed $25,000 to this effort, helping to return Tri-Valley family wage earners to work and provide emergency housing and support services for their families.
Kaiser Permanente is partnering with the Foundation in several ways to provide wellness and behavioral health services to Tri-Valley residents, especially targeting low-income community members who need greater access to health care. Kaiser is the major funder for Smart Choices, an after-school gang violence prevention program sponsored by the Foundation in collaboration with Livermore High School. The voluntary program teaches and supports academic improvement, a healthy lifestyle, goal setting for life and career, understanding the link between actions and consequences and non-aggressive ways of problem-solving and relating to others.
In collaboration with the city of Livermore, Kaiser and the Foundation are also working together to provide healthy lifestyle and nutrition classes and counseling for families living on a tight budget.
"Government funding is becoming increasingly scarce for programs like these," Rice said. "Our Foundation is grateful for corporate partners such as Kaiser Permanente that continue to step up to the plate and sustain these valuable services in our community."