January 2011 E-Newsletter
In case you missed my earlier District Office Open House, you can meet me at the Willow Glen Coffee Roasting Co., 1383 Lincoln Avenue, San Jose, on Saturday, Jan. 29, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. where I will be meeting with constituents, listening to their concerns, and answering questions about pressing state issues.
I plan to hold a meeting in the community every month this year.
There is a feeling around the State Capitol that 2011 could be a watershed year, the year we finally confronted our grave financial problems instead of kicking them down the road.
The new Governor has set the tone for austerity as the state confronts a $24 billion deficit. He has cut his staff by 25 percent. He has eliminated the Secretary for Education, a post considered redundant to the Superintendent of Public Instruction, to save $1.9 million.
He has also handed the Legislature a proposed budget that presents tough choices for both lawmakers and voters. Statehouse reporters have described the Governor’s plan as a “share-the-pain’’ budget.
He seeks to transfer $5.9 billion in state programs onto local governments and provide a considerable amount of funding to help the counties and cities. But many local officials have expressed doubts about the Governor’s complex plan.
The Governor is asking legislators to taken action within the next 60 days so he can go forward with a June ballot proposal asking voters to decide whether to extend the current level of taxes on income, sales, and vehicle taxes that are scheduled to expire June 31. If the voters approve the proposal it will maintain $12 billion in revenue. If they reject the extensions, deeper cuts will follow.
Currently, the Governor recommends cutting $1.7 billion from Medi-Cal; cutting half of the CalWorks budget, and cutting $500 million each from the University of California and California State University systems.
Over the past two years, the Assembly has pared its own budget. In 2009, it enacted a 10 percent cut and shifted a large portion of the savings to the Economic Development Department. Last year, the Assembly cut another 15 percent from its budget, using part of the savings, $6 million, to provide an emergency loan to continue CalWorks Stage 3 child-care services in the face of veto cuts made by Gov. Schwarzenegger as he left office.
I have cut my own budget, too. Prior to the Citizen’s Compensation Commission’s 18% reduction in legislators’ salary and benefits, I chose to voluntarily reduce my salary as a reflection of the difficult times Californians have been experiencing. In addition, I have been very vocal in my opposition to one legislator’s attempts to overturn the Commission’s actions in court.
I am bringing that attitude to the budget as well. I think we can find ways to dampen the cuts through efficiency.
Finally, I want to emphasize the Governor’s recommendations are a starting point for the debate and negotiations that can lead to a solid fiscal plan.
A key issue in these talks will be the economy. The majority of the Assembly wants solutions that will keep or grow jobs, not lose them. We’re also mindful Californians expect the state’s essential services to be efficient and responsive.
Recently, I publicly asked the residents of Assembly District 24 to send me their ideas for solving the budget crisis. Their responses were wide ranging; some recommended continued cutting and others said they are willing to see some raises in fees or taxes. I am sharing the best ideas with my colleagues and staff.
I am cutting down the number of bills I introduce for this session. It is part of my strategy to concentrate more of my time on the economy. My focus is on getting California moving again – getting people back to work, and improving education. As chairman of the Assembly Human Services Committee, I will continue my campaign to see that everyone – no matter their age, disability, or station in life – has the same rights to educational and job opportunities as the rest of us.
Here are some of the bills I have introduced for 2011:
- AB 171 – Ends the practice of health insurers denying children and adults with autism and related disorders the critical services and programs they need.
- AB 79 – Secures California's leadership in new technology development. It generates private funding for research at the University of California’s Science Institute of emerging technologies with high job growth potential. Investors can claim tax credits for their donations to specified fields including clean tech, bio and nano technology.
- AB 81 – Revives California airports through incentives to increase international trade, job growth, and regional economies.
- AB 39 – Restores special education services for developmentally disabled students with $57 million from the Mental Health Services Fund to back fill cuts in the current year budget made by the Schwarzenegger administration.
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Parity – Requires health insurers to cover mental disorders and addictions equivalent to the coverage already provided for physical illnesses and injuries. It protects consumers from being denied treatment and halts the trend of insurance companies shifting costs to hospitals and counties.
- AB 31 – Ensures communities with new High-Speed Rail stations create transit-oriented development that encourages investment, improves the environment and air quality, and coherent growth in areas surrounding the stations.
- AB 69 directs the state to work with the federal Social Security Administration to target social security recipients eligible for CalFresh benefits, formerly known as Food Stamps. Only five percent of eligible seniors take advantage of this program that can stretch their dollars while putting nutritious food on their tables.
- AB 138, the Elder Economic Planning Act of 2011, is designed to correctly calculate the annual income a 65-year or older adult needs to meet basic-living needs in California. About 1.46 million California seniors are denied eligibility for critical programs such as CalFresh, Medi-Cal, and Medicare because the federal yardstick for poverty fails to account for California’s higher cost of living, thereby penalizing our seniors. Updating the antiquated eligibility standards will increase participation and eligibility in those programs, helping more seniors on fixed incomes.
In observance of Women’s History Month each March, members of the Assembly are asked to honor a woman whose contributions have made their district a better place.
If you believe there is a woman whose work in the community qualifies her to be a candidate for Assembly District 24’s Woman of the Year, please tell me. To nominate her, click here. Include a brief description of her accomplishments, how they have had an impact, and your phone number. Please include contact information – phone number and email address -- for the nominee, too.
The United Way and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program are offering free tax preparation services to help individuals and families get the refunds they are eligible for.
To qualify for tax help, your 2010 income must be less than $49,000. For more information or to find a site near you: call 2-1-1 or visit www.211scc.org.
The United Way is also offering free credit coaching to Santa Clara County residents struggling with their credit. Over the course of a year, participants will meet with a trained volunteer credit coach six times to improve their personal credit and financial management skills. For more information, please visit: http://www.uwsv.org/Credit_Coaching.php
For the first time in its history, the California Franchise Tax Board no longer directly mail printed tax booklets to taxpayers.
Taxpayers will receive a letter in January providing information on filing options, including e-filing and how to obtain a tax booklet. Taxpayers can also find tax information online at ftb.ca.gov.
The tax board said the new policy was based on a decrease in demand for printed booklets combined with the significant growth in e-filing. The move is expected to save taxpayers at least $1 million in printing and postage.
Feb. 28 is the postmark deadline for applications for the next session of the California State Summer School for the Arts or CSSSA.
For 25 years, the CSSSA has accepted 520 students to receive intensive training from professionals in music, theatre, video and film, visual arts, dance, creative writing, and animation.
The 2011 tuition is $1,550 for California residents, and $5,000 for out-of-state residents. Full and partial scholarships are available for first-time California resident attendees only. About 40 percent of the students receive financial aid.
The summer school will be held at the California Insitute of the Arts in Valencia from July 9 to Aug. 5. Students who complete the program will earn three units of California State University course credit.
For more information visit www.csssa.ca.gov or call the CSSSA’s office, (916) 229-5160.