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September 4, 2007 > Governor slashes funding for public library foundation

Governor slashes funding for public library foundation

On Friday, August 24th Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, flanked by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman signed the 2007-2008 state budget in the rotunda of the State Capitol. At the bill signing, the Governor noted that the "budget has a zero deficit. That is an extraordinary accomplishment."

Unfortunately, the attempt to obtain a "zero deficit" meant that an additional $700 million was cut by the Governor from the budget version that was sent down to him. The Public Library Foundation (PLF), a significant source of funding for public libraries in California, suffered a major loss during this process.

In fiscal year 2007/2008, full funding of the PLF would provide an estimated $1.3 million in general revenue for the Alameda County Library. The 2007/2008 estimated funding now stands at $200,000, a reduction from the actual 2006/2007 funding of $301,600 received by the Library system.

Jean Hofacket, Alameda County Librarian, is quoted as saying:

"This translates into a very real loss for our library customers. $1.3 million will buy 37,000 books or 2,600 children's programs or 40,000 hours of adult literacy training. $200,000 will buy 5,700 books or 400 children's programs or 5,400 hours of adult literacy training."

"In addition, I am concerned that the Governor's statement regarding the 'necessity of limiting program expansions' indicates a lack of understanding of the essential role that Public Libraries play in their communities and in a democratic society and the responsibility of the State in helping to provide funding for libraries."

In creating the Public Library Foundation, the California Legislature declared that "it is in the best interest of the people and of the State that there be a general diffusion of information and knowledge through the continued operations of free public libraries...and the PLF deserves adequate financial support from government at all levels."

However, the program has never been fully funded - with funding levels ranging from 19 of full funding in 1992-1993 to 79% in 2000/2001 to 17% in 2004/2005.

Last year, the Governor approved a $7 million augmentation to the Public Library Foundation, bringing the total baseline figure to $21.3 million and laying the groundwork for continued increase of the program. This year, the Budget Conference Committee approved a $1 million augmentation to the fund. However, the Governor has chosen to slash not only the $1 million augmentation for 2007-08, but in addition, he is taking away the $7 million augmentation he provided last year. In his veto message he states:

"I am deleting the discretionary $1,000,000 legislative augmentation to the Public Library Foundation. This reduction is necessary to limit program expansions and help bring ongoing General Fund expenditures in line with existing resources. In addition, I am deleting $7,000,000 in order to further build a prudent reserve in light of the various uncertainties in revenues and spending that we face this year."

Jean Hofacket, County Librarian

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