Graves, Scott

Scott Graves is a senior policy analyst at the California Budget Project (CBP) specializing in health and human services issues. The CBP works to improve public policies that affect low- and middle-income Californians through independent research, budget and policy analysis, and public education.

Food Stamp Program Helps 2.9 Million Californians Avert Hunger

By Scott Graves
California Budget Project

With Thanksgiving upon us, it seems fitting to give thanks for a key component of the nation’s safety net for low-income families – the Food Stamp Program. More and more Californians with incomes below or near the poverty line turned to the program to help put nutritious food on their tables as the recession deepened and job losses mounted over the past two years.

The number of Californians receiving food stamp benefits reached nearly 2.9 million in August 2009, an increase of more than 814,500 (39.4 percent) from the August 2007 level of nearly 2.1 million. By comparison, the number of Californians receiving food stamp benefits during the prior two-year period – August 2005 to August 2007 – increased by just 3.1 percent.

See the graph here.

No Free Lunch

by Scott Graves
California Budget Project

Bond measures often succeed at the polls, and it’s easy to see why. They require only a simple majority vote; generally – but not always – pay for infrastructure, such as schools and highways; and appear to be “free money” since voters aren’t asked to raise taxes in order to repay the bondholders.

In reality, there’s no free lunch. Debt service (principal plus interest on bonds) becomes a new General Fund obligation paid out of the same limited revenues that also fund services that enhance the quality of life for all Californians – everything from K-12 and higher education to in-home care for low-income seniors and people with disabilities.

A recent report by State Treasurer Bill Lockyer shines a spotlight on this issue. The report shows that debt service on voter-approved bonds (including those that are projected to be approved and sold over the next two decades) will consume a rising share of the state budget.