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Policy Insights, the Budget Center’s annual conference, is the premier event for advocates, policymakers, researchers, and other leaders working to improve the lives of low- and middle-income Californians.

The following is the agenda and schedule for Policy Insights 2016, which was held on March 9 at the Sacramento Convention Center. This page includes links to presentations from the conference sessions as noted.


8:30-8:50 Registration and Continental Breakfast

9:00-9:15 Welcome

Introductory Remarks on Poverty, Economic Opportunity, and the Proposed 2016-17 Budget

  • Chris Hoene, Executive Director, California Budget & Policy Center

9:15-10:30 Morning Plenary

Strengthening the Foundations of Shared Prosperity, Part I: California Policymakers Reflect on Key Proposals

Four state leaders with deep Capitol experience discuss current policy proposals and other ideas for reducing poverty and increasing economic security in the Golden State.

  • Toni G. Atkins, Speaker Emeritus of the Assembly
  • John Chiang, California State Treasurer
  • Kevin de León, Senate President pro Tempore
  • Holly J. Mitchell, Chair, Senate Budget Subcommittee #3 on Health & Human Services
  • Moderator: John Myers, Los Angeles Times

10:45-12:00 Morning Workshops (see “Workshops” below) 

12:15-1:45 Luncheon Plenary

Video: Preview of California Women’s Well-Being Index

Introductory Remarks

  • Paul Rosenstiel, Retired Managing Director, Public Finance Department, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company and Board Chair, California Budget & Policy Center
  • Joseph N. Sanberg, Co-Founder and Chair, Board of Advisors, Aspiration

Strengthening the Foundations of Shared Prosperity, Part 2: Poverty and Place

Four policy experts discuss the connection between local community conditions and economic opportunity and what it could mean for public policy choices.

Keynote: Poverty and Place: The Role of Neighborhoods in Upward Income Mobility

  • Raj Chetty, Professor of Economics, Stanford University | View Slides


  • Judith Bell, Vice President of Programs, The San Francisco Foundation
  • Frank J. Mecca, Executive Director, County Welfare Directors Association of California and Board Member, California Budget & Policy Center
  • Ellen Wu, Executive Director, Urban Habitat and Board Member, California Budget & Policy Center
  • Moderator: Katie Orr, Sacramento Politics and Government Reporter, KQED Public Radio

2:00-3:15 Afternoon Workshops (see “Workshops” below)

3:30-4:45: Afternoon Plenary

Strengthening the Foundations of Shared Prosperity, Part 3: The Role of Tax Policy

Three of our state’s foremost thought leaders on tax policy and public finance discuss options for reform with a focus on the key considerations to use in evaluating emerging proposals.

  • Jennifer Ito, Project Manager, Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, University of Southern California and Board Member, California Budget & Policy Center
  • Ana J. Matosantos, Financial and Budget Consultant, Former Director, Department of Finance, and Board Member, California Budget & Policy Center
  • Anthony Thigpenn, President, California Calls
  • Moderator: Chris Hoene, Executive Director, California Budget & Policy Center

4:45-6:00: Reception


10:45-12:00 Morning Workshops

What’s at Stake? Key Legislative Staffers Discuss the 2016-17 Budget 

Improving economic conditions in recent years and rising state revenues present state policymakers with a range of options for reinvesting in California in 2016-17 and beyond. The Governor’s proposal continues to emphasize saving for a rainy day and includes plans for paying down debts, spending to improve state buildings and facilities, and reforming the state’s preschool and child care systems. Yet, the Governor’s proposed budget does not include a plan to tackle California’s biggest challenges: high levels of underemployment and poverty, widening income inequality, and a safety net severely weakened by years of funding cuts. Come hear senior legislative staffers discuss the central issues in this year’s budget debate and offer their perspectives on where the budget may be headed in the coming months and years.

  • Nicole Vazquez, Deputy Chief & Human Services Consultant, Assembly Budget Committee
  • Craig Cornett, Budget Director and Chief Fiscal Advisor, Office of Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León
  • Moderator: Steven Bliss, Director of Strategic Communications, California Budget & Policy Center

Promising Ways to Invest in Our Children’s Future

Strong revenue gains provide an opportunity to make investments that pave the way for more broadly shared economic growth. Research shows that investing in children, particularly early in their lives, can improve their life chances and allow them to more fully contribute to our economy and communities when they grow up. This workshop will look at three promising investments that research shows can expand opportunities for children and families and strengthen our state’s future: home visiting programs, which connect new mothers to professionals who provide coaching to improve maternal health, early learning, and parent-child interactions; other family-strengthening programs that provide support and coaching to new parents, such as Triple P; and innovative models that increase children’s access to oral health services and prevent problems that can interfere with their ability to learn and excel.

  • Sarah Crow, Vice President, Policy and Evaluation, The Opportunity Institute | View Slides
  • Jenny Kattlove, Senior Director, Programs, The Children’s Partnership | View Slides
  • Moira Kenney, Executive Director, First 5 Association of California | View Slides
  • Moderator: Alissa Anderson, Senior Policy Analyst, California Budget & Policy Center

The Push for Higher Wages in California: An Update on State and Local Minimum Wage Campaigns

This January, California’s statewide minimum wage rose to $10 an hour. However, this isn’t the end of the push for higher wages in the state, and 2016 promises to be a busy year for deliberations over minimum wage policies. On top of multiple efforts to raise the statewide minimum wage to $15 an hour, cities across California also are debating raising their minimum wage. Join us leading experts provide an update on the minimum wage debate in terms of what we can expect to happen in the coming year, a perspective from small business, and how the minimum  wage interacts with other programs to lift people out of poverty. Presentations will be followed by a moderated discussion about the strengths and possible tradeoffs of a higher minimum wage in California.

  • Jessica Bartholow, Policy Advocate, Western Center on Law & Poverty
  • Mark Herbert, California Director, Small Business Majority | View Slides
  • Ken Jacobs, Chair, Labor Center, University of California, Berkeley | View Slides
  • Moderator: Chris Hoene, Executive Director, California Budget & Policy Center

California’s K-12 Teacher Shortage: Recent Research and Potential Solutions

Many California school districts are struggling to fill vacant teaching positions and the state ranks last in the nation in the number of K-12 students per teacher. Recent boosts in state funding have allowed many California schools districts to increase hiring at the same time that enrollment in the state’s teacher preparation programs is at its lowest point in more than 10 years.  Moreover, the aging of the state’s teaching workforce and high levels of attrition mean the prospect of filling open teaching positions may become more challenging. These challenges are likely to be even more difficult with regard to filling hard-to-staff positions, such as math, science, and special education. This workshop will include a review of recently published research on California’s emerging teacher shortage and potential policy solutions.

  • Lori Easterling, Manager of Legislative Relations, California Teachers Association (representing Eric C. Heins, CTA President)
  • Patrick M. Shields, Executive Director, Learning Policy Institute | View Slides
  • Moderator: Jonathan Kaplan, Senior Policy Analyst,  California Budget & Policy Center

Sentencing in California: Moving Toward a Smarter, More Cost-Effective Approach

California’s criminal justice system has undergone sweeping transformations over the past generation. Following the passage of “tough on crime” laws in the 1980s and 1990s, rates of incarceration soared, resulting in a 2009 federal court order to reduce overcrowding in state prisons. Since then, state policymakers and voters have adopted a series of policy changes intended to reduce state incarceration, invest in communities, and provide community-based alternatives to imprisonment. Despite these positive steps, California’s sentencing laws continue to overly rely on incarceration, contributing to ongoing prison overcrowding and persistently high state corrections spending. What additional changes are needed to significantly divest from incarceration as a sentencing tool? What are the opportunities for enacting further reforms – incremental or otherwise – in the near future, and how would the Governor’s proposed criminal justice ballot initiative figure in this? Moreover, how might San Francisco’s unique sentencing commission help inform efforts to improve sentencing policies at the state level? Join us as our expert panel weighs in on these questions.

  • Tara Regan Anderson, Policy & Grants Manager, San Francisco District Attorney’s Office
  • Hon. George Eskin, California Superior Court Judge (Ret.), County of Santa Barbara | Text of Remarks
  • Ignacio Hernández, Founder & President, Hernández Strategy Group
  • Moderator: Scott Graves, Director of Research, California Budget & Policy Center

2:00-3:15 Afternoon Workshops

Supporting California’s Early Learners: Strategically Investing in Children From Birth Through Kindergarten 

California supports the educational needs of early learners, children ages 0 to 5, in a variety of ways. California’s child care and development system helps prepare children from low- and moderate-income families for school and provides affordable care so parents can find jobs and remain employed. This is done through subsidized child care programs as well as the California State Preschool Program (CSPP). In addition, California’s Transitional Kindergarten (TK) program provides an additional year of kindergarten for certain four- and five-year-olds, regardless of family income. There are now a number of proposals at the state level that could affect the provision of services for California’s early learners, including a new early education block grant and the development of a plan to consolidate the provider payment system. In addition, the reauthorization of the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant could also affect children ages 0 to 5 throughout the state. This workshop will discuss the state’s investment in California’s early learners and the various proposals in play during the 2016-17 budget cycle.

  • Deborah Kong, President, Early Edge California | View Slides
  • Donna Sneeringer, Director of Government Relations, Child Care Resource Center
  • Dorie Staack, Director, Elementary Education and State and Federal Programs, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District | View Slides
  • Moderator: Kristin Schumacher, Policy Analyst, California Budget & Policy Center

Why Is Housing So Expensive in California and What Can Be Done About It?

Housing is more expensive on average in California than in every other state but Hawaii. The typical California household devotes more of its income to housing than does the typical household in the rest of the US, and housing consumes a particularly large part of low-income Californians’ budgets. Furthermore, access to housing in good neighborhoods is essential to key outcomes, from job opportunities to quality education and health. What is it about California that makes housing so expensive? What can be done to improve access to quality, affordable housing? In this workshop, you’ll hear leading experts discuss the underlying causes of California’s expensive housing, how limited access to affordable housing affects different segments of the population, and what policy solutions may exist to improve the situation.

  • Chris Benner, Executive Director, The Everett Program, University of California, Santa Cruz | View Slides
  • Jennifer Ito, Project Manager, Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, University of Southern California and Board Member, California Budget & Policy Center | View Slides
  • Matt Schwartz, President and CEO, California Housing Partnership Corporation | View Slides
  • Moderator: William Chen, Policy Analyst, California Budget & Policy Center

Forging Pathways to Health Care Coverage for Undocumented Immigrants in California

Well over 2 million undocumented immigrants live in California, making significant contributions to our state. Yet, most of these residents cannot enroll in state-level public health care coverage. Undocumented adults generally are ineligible for “full-scope” Medi-Cal – California’s Medicaid program for low-income residents – although children without legal documentation will soon be eligible for such coverage due to a new state law. Moreover, federal law prevents undocumented immigrants from purchasing coverage through Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace. In light of this policy landscape, many California counties have taken steps to expand health care options for undocumented residents, creating a patchwork of wide-ranging local policies. In what ways have counties strengthened their health care safety nets for undocumented immigrants? What are the possibilities for further expanding coverage options for undocumented immigrants at the state level, and to what extent would such changes boost immigrants’ access to affordable care? Get answers and hear up-to-the-minute insights from our expert panel.

  • Ronald Coleman, Government Affairs Manager, California Immigrant Policy Center | View Slides
  • Shannon McConville, Research Associate, Public Policy Institute of California | View Slides
  • Geoffrey Neill, Principal Policy and Fiscal Analyst, California State Association of Counties (representing Farrah McDaid Ting, CSAC Health and Human Services Legislative Representative)
  • Moderator: Scott Graves, Director of Research, California Budget & Policy Center

Making the Case for Boosting Revenues: Strategies for Messaging and Talking About Taxes

Ensuring that California has an economy that works for all means investing in the foundations of broadly shared prosperity, such as top-quality K-12 schools, a world-class system of higher education that is affordable to students and their families, subsidized child care that helps more families find and retain jobs, and other essential public services and systems. For California to make these investments over the long term, we’ll need to strengthen our tax system by boosting revenues in ways that are equitable and sustainable. Yet, efforts to raise new revenues typically run into a number of obstacles, such as longstanding myths about the economic risks of raising taxes and the basic challenge of communicating often complex tax proposals in ways that connect with audiences. Join us for a hands-on workshop that will discuss principles of effective messaging on taxes and revenues, common pitfalls to avoid, and specific ways to link tax debates to the issues you and your constituencies care about.

  • Steven Bliss, Director of Strategic Communications, California Budget & Policy Center
  • Aparna Shah, Executive Director, Mobilize the Immigrant Vote
    View Slides From Workshop


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