Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin joined 11 fellow U.S. city and state controllers, comptrollers and treasurers in a letter calling on the White House to fully fund the U.S. Census Bureau and fill the vacant Census Bureau director post.
The bipartisan coalition included Galperin and city controllers and comptrollers from New York City; Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Penn., and Buffalo, N.Y.; and state treasurers and controllers from California, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Oregon and Utah. The group emphasized the importance of accurate census data to federal programs, policymaking and democratic elections.
Galperin, who is recognized as a national leader in using open data to make government more efficient and accountable to constituents, called the Census an indispensable tool for policymakers across the country.
“Open data has been a tool to help our city government and others serve their constituents more efficiently and effectively, and in many ways the U.S. Census was the original open data initiative,” Controller Galperin said. “It’s distressing to me that as Los Angeles and other local and state governments discover the value of data to help guide decision-making, the federal government seems to be moving in the opposite direction. As an LGBT American, I’m also dismayed that the Trump administration has elected to omit questions from the 2020 Census pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity. Our community has worked hard to come out of the shadows and we won’t go back.”
The coalition’s letter highlighted critical initiatives that rely on Census data including:
More than 215 federal programs which use Census data to allocate grants and funding, including Medicaid reimbursement, affordable housing subsidies, transportation funding, food stamps, free and reduced-price school lunches, and early childhood education;
The creation of fair electoral districts, which are critical to free, democratic elections.
Incorrect Census data can have a real impact. The 16 largest Census-guided federal programs account for roughly $600 billion in aid to states each year. According to a Federal study of eight grant programs, an undercount in the 2000 Census cost 31 states an estimated $4.1 billion over the following decade.
Despite the importance of Census data to projects ranging from healthcare to elections, President Trump and Republicans in Congress have worked to undermine the U.S. Census Bureau. The coalition highlighted that in recent months:
The Administration has proposed increasing the Census Bureau’s budget by just $27 million for Fiscal Year 2018. This level of funding is significantly below funding levels in the years before the 1990, 2000, and 2010 Censuses;
The Government Accountability Office has added the 2020 Census to its “High Risk List,” which indicates the agency’s concern that the Census Bureau will not be able to effectively fulfill its mission;
The inclusion of questions designed to gain valuable information about sexual orientation and gender identity were erased from the 2020 Census, even after being included in a list of proposed topics for the 2020 survey.
The President has not nominated a replacement for Census Bureau Director John Thompson, who announced his resignation in early May after working at the bureau for 27 years;
Due to funding shortages, the Census Bureau has already cancelled two of three field tests in 2018 and has eliminated critical parts of the remaining field test in Providence, Rhode Island.
In their letter, the coalition is calling on President Trump and Member of Congress to fully fund the Census Bureau and nominate and confirm qualified candidates for both Census Bureau Director and Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs.
The coalition includes Galperin, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, Buffalo Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder, California State Controller Betty T. Yee, Maryland State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read, Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella, Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz, Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb, Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and Utah State Treasurer David Damschen. That includes the Comptrollers and Treasurers from two of the nation’s largest states — California and New York — and the nation’s two largest cities — New York City and Los Angeles — in the country.
“Once again, the Trump Administration is on the wrong side of history, and once again the results could be dire. The census defines who we are as a nation — and we can’t let Washington undermine that,” New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer said. “Census data plays a critical role in everything from affordable housing, to healthcare, to education, to transportation, to free and fair elections. For millions of Americans these programs are life and death. We get one shot every ten years — we can’t get this wrong.”
“The founders of our nation knew how important an accurate and reliable census is to ensuring fair representation and the equitable distribution of resources – that is why it is mandated by Article 1 of the Constitution,” said Buffalo Comptroller Mark Schroeder. “It is imperative that the U.S. Census Bureau has adequate funding and strong leadership in order to complete its critical mission.”
“As California’s chief fiscal officer, I continuously track the state’s economy as well as the financial health of California families. A fully funded census will ensure that the vast diversity of our state is accurately accounted for, and government services are correctly distributed for health care, education, public safety, and more” said California State Controller Betty Yee.
“The value of the United States Census is immeasurable,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. “Each census affects New York and its municipalities in numerous ways: changing population causes shifts in local tax bases, drives adjustments in revenues, and influences the demand for municipal services and infrastructure. By providing adequate funding and strong leadership to the Census Bureau, the President and Congress can assure state and local officials that the process is accurate and remains on the right track.”
“The Census provides crucial data which guides policy decisions at each level of government and affects every American,” said Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. “With 2020 fast approaching, the Trump administration must ensure that the Bureau has the resources, leadership and oversight to conduct an accurate count of the U.S. population.”
“Philadelphia has the highest rate of deep poverty of any large U.S. city, making it even more critical that the voices in these neighborhoods are heard and counted in the next Census. Our strength is measured in numbers and every person counted moves our city another step forward,” said Alan Butkovitz, Philadelphia City Controller.