California Governor Gavin Newsom, on Sept. 25, 2022, signed an Inland Empire lawmakers’ bill that will grant the University of California, Riverside, $201 million in state funding. Authored by assembly members Jose Medina and Adam C. Gray, AB 2046 would require funding appropriated by the Legislature during the 2022–2023 to 2024–2025, inclusive, fiscal years to directly support campus expansion projects or University of California climate initiatives, or both, at the University of California, Riverside, and the University of California, Merced. The bill, which will be officially enacted July 1, 2023, ensures that this money provided would be supplemental and would not supplant any current or future funding.

Medina, a Democratic representative of Riverside County, praised the governor’s signing of AB 2046. “For years, the Inland Empire and the Central Valley have been historically underfunded compared to other regions of the state,” Medina said in a news release. “The signing of AB 2046 and the investment of $313 million in the state budget are long overdue to these regions.”

Identifying a funding gap between UCR and coastal UC campuses, Medina and other Inland lawmakers lobbied for the money to make up for this. The Legislature found and declared that though California represents one of the largest economies in the world, these economic benefits are not shared equally by all regions of the state. Most notably, the Inland Empire and central valley are among the lowest in educational attainment levels and per-capita income. Schools and Universities, such as UCR, must constantly deal with frustrating issues from crumbling classrooms to a lack of classroom space, counselors and faculty.

A historical overview of the bill shows its first introduction to the legislative assembly on Feb. 14, 2022 before being revised and amended multiple times till its approval. It passed through the legislative assembly on May 26 with a vote count of 74-0-4, while it was approved by the senate on August 30 with a vote count of 40-0-0, before being ultimately signed into law by the governor of California. Initially, lawmakers sought $1.46 billion in the new state budget for UCR and UC Merced.

AB 2046 includes money to “increase enrollment, construct classrooms, increase research in public health and climate change, and create health equity in the Central Valley and Inland Empire,” Medina’s release states. “It also creates union jobs for the community through the projects that receive this funding.”

Industries in the Inland Empire are often hit hardest by the effects of shifting climate as agriculture, warehousing, and other commercial activity is negatively burdened disproportionately. Access to healthcare providers are also quite limited in the region as the population continues to grow. Investing in alleviating these issues would serve to “accelerate economic development and innovation in the areas of air pollution, clean technology, and sustainable agriculture, and significantly improve health outcomes in these communities,” as stated by the Legislature.

The bill would place certain wage and workforce requirements on projects that receive this funding and would require the University of California to submit an annual report to the Legislature and the Department of Finance regarding these funds, as provided.

With support from the state through financial and political means, UCR can leverage its strengths in social mobility, clean technology, and air pollution research to advance sustainability, innovation, and social inclusion. UCR, along with UCM, also has plans to grow their own health care providers, by advancing medical education in the Inland Empire and central valley.

You can learn more about Assembly Bill 2046 by visiting this website.