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California fiscal expert Jean Ross is leaving her 17-year post as executive director of the California Budget Project to work for the Ford Foundation in New York City, she announced today.

Ross has been a fixture in state budget debates over the years, often advocating for programs that serve California's low-income population such as Medi-Cal and CalWORKs. She testified last week at a hearing examining how recession-era budget cuts have hurt women in particular, in conjunction with the Budget Project's release of a new report on the same issue.

Ross will step down at the end of March to oversee various grant awards for the Ford Foundation that benefit nonprofit groups such as the California Budget Project, she said. Ross' boss will be none other than Maya Harris, sister of Attorney General Kamala Harris. Maya Harris is vice president of the foundation's "Democracy, Rights and Justice" program.

Ross has been executive director of the California Budget Project since its founding in 1995, a post she assumed after six years as a consultant to the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee.

After more than two decades of watching the Capitol's budget process, Ross said, "The positive thing is there is much broader participation than there used to be. If you go back to the olden days, you wouldn't see the breadth and depth of testimony at budget subcommittee hearings. The budget was the purview of a small group of insider lobbyists."

However, she added, "The not-so-good side is largely the result of layering upon layering of different ballot measures. The process has become less transparent, more complicated."


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