January 2009 E-Newsletter
As California faces its toughest challenge since the Great Depression, I've set down three basic tenets to follow this session: Help our taxpayers; rev up the economy; and make government more efficient.
Getting government to work better helps everyone - taxpayers get more muscle from their dollars, programs become more responsive, waste is eliminated. An elementary step is to examine how the state spends its money and why and whether it matches our priorities.
For example, prison spending is projected to outstrip higher education funding within three years - is that how Californians actually want their money spent? If not, what are our choices? I believe California would be better off instituting more drug-prevention policies and early-intervention programs that can reduce the numbers of substance abuse offenders entering our overcrowded prisons. Witness the effectiveness of Proposition 36, a measure designed to get addicts into treatment instead of prisons that has reduced the number of inmates on drug-related charges by 6,000, saving taxpayers millions since its passage eight years ago.
I have been communicating and working with our local Congressional delegation on how an economic stimulus package should be structured to help our state. My efforts focus on getting California its fair share of federal dollars, increasing access to healthcare, and reforming regulations to make it easier for people to become eligible for the federal Food Stamp program. I've also emphasized that Congress must revamp how it divvies federal money to cope with home foreclosures because California has been shortchanged compared to other states with smaller populations and lower rates of foreclosures.
With the state bringing in lower revenue, we have to be judicious in the choices we make. The Governor's proposed budget cuts human services to the elderly, poor, and people with disabilities. But does it make sense to shred safety net services just when even more people - the victims of a tattered national economy - will need them? And if those services are drastically reduced in these dire times, it will only compound California's problems.
Now is not the time to dismantle these critical programs especially in light of President-elect Obama's vows to bring healthcare to more Americans and ramp up help for the states. We have to keep our health and human services agencies vital and ready to accept that federal help so we can quickly re-distribute it to Californians.
In the midst of the Great Depression, California did not cut back on its social and human services agendas. In fact, the state expanded those agendas to address the era's problems. In 1929, the state instituted an Old Age Assistance program that provided seniors with an average monthly pension of $21 pension. In 1936, the state began distributing unemployment benefits for the first time. So, we cannot afford to miss opportunities that not only let us improve the social fabric but also help us save taxpayer dollars despite the times.
At the beginning of this session, I introduced Assembly Bill 12, legislation that allows California to tap federal dollars to help us extend foster care from 18 to 21 years old. In my book, this bill achieves two goals: It not only helps foster care youths but it also saves state taxpayers millions over the long haul.
The stone cold facts tell us about 4,500 of California's 74,000 youths are "aged out" of the foster care system every year. One in four will be jailed within two years of emancipation; 20 percent become homeless. More than half are high school drop-outs; only 3 percent get a college degree. Almost half are unemployed at age 21.
By creating a strong bridge of support to age 21, the state will not only create responsible, contributing citizens but also save untold millions in court, prison, and human and social costs - money that can be put to other uses.
Despite budget gaps, we can still attack our problems and help Californians if we think smart and fashion an effective New Deal for the 21st century.
I am currently looking for college- and high school-level interns who would like to gain valuable work experience in my district office, located in downtown San Jose. These internships provide students with a great opportunity to get involved in state government, develop useful job skills, and even get a head start on a career in government or politics. Students will gain experience in a professional work environment, build their resumes, and have the opportunity to network with professionals in a number of fields.
Interested students are encouraged to contact Melisa Wonch in the district office at (408) 282-8920, or by emailing your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The holiday season may be over, but I want to thank everyone who stopped by my district office to donate a Christmas gift to a deserving child through the Family Giving Tree. Thank you for digging deep into your pockets, especially in these tough times. The gift you provided made the holidays that much brighter for a young boy or girl.
And be sure to stop by again after Thanksgiving when we have another Family Giving Tree up in our office.
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 24 OPEN HOUSE
Assemblymember Beall will hold his annual District Office Open House on Thursday, Feb. 19, 4 p.m.-6 p.m., at 100 Paseo De San Antonio, Suite 300 of the Alfred E. Alquist Building in downtown San Jose.
Assemblymember Beall will be available to discuss community and state issues. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, please call (408) 282-8920 or visit www.assembly.ca.gov./a24.
SENIOR SAFETY SEMINAR
This 4-hour course combines classroom education with an introduction to Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) services and programs for older adults. The Stay Vital class is taught by CHP volunteers and will cover topics such as:
- Myths about older drivers
- Confidential self assessments of driving abilities
- Rules of the road
- Compensating for age-related changes
- Safe driving tips
- Role of nutrition, fitness, and medications in driving safety
The class is scheduled for:
Friday, Jan. 23
9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
720 Empey Way, San Jose
Class size is limited so please RSVP by Jan. 20. Contact Alice Matsushima at (408) 793-2730 or email@example.com.
A VTA representative will compliment the class by discussing local bus and light rail mobility options. Class participants will also learn first hand about bus features that enhance accessibility for older adults.