January 2014 E-Newsletter

January 22, 2014

BUDGET UPDATE

A year ago, Sacramento turned the corner in reversing California's massive debt. This year, legislators plan to build on that momentum by cutting more debt while pumping billions into education.

After years of recession that has resulted in nearly $24.9 billion of debt to date, we are on the road toward erasing that red ink by the end of the 2017-18 fiscal year. Last year, we wiped out $9.8 billion in debt.

The Governor's new budget calls for $106.8 billion in spending -- $11 billion of it targeted for paying off loans and another $1.6 billion to create a rainy day fund for emergencies.

His plan would add $4.5 billion to the K-12 budget and repay $6 billion to school districts to make up for underfunded payments during the recession.

It provides a 5 percent boost -- $142 million each -- for the University of California and California State University systems. The community colleges would receive $236 million to chip away at payments that were deferred; another $155 million for growth; and $200 million to advance student success.

There are modest gains for health and human services and, I believe, those proposals will be looked at very closely and may be increased to restore some of the deep cuts that were made in the past.

The Governor did include $12 million for substance abuse treatment centers at 10 prisons and $11 million to expand mental health programs for parolees in an effort to reduce the high rates of parolees who return to prison. I view this as a positive first step toward keeping parolees out of jail, getting them healthy, and ultimately saving more taxpayer dollars.

But we should remember this proposed budget is subject to change. There are many unknowns on the way to the June 15 deadline to adopt a budget. After tax revenues come in April, we will have a clearer picture of California's fiscal health. The state is still grappling with a federal court deadline to reduce its prison population, which may divert dollars.

If you have any thoughts or ideas about the budget, please email me or you can . . .


MEET ME

Got a question, problem, or issue about state government? You can always meet with me one-on-one at my community coffees and tell me what's on your mind.

My next coffee is scheduled at:

Friday, Feb. 7, 8:30 a.m.-10 a.m.
Blvd Coffee
15525 Los Gatos Boulevard, Suite C
Los Gatos


MENTAL HEALTH PARITY

One of my top priorities is strengthen the enforcement of mental health parity to ensure people with mental illnesses with health insurance will receive the same coverage comparable to their coverage for a physical illness or injury.

I believe we have a good opportunity to finally achieve this goal this year.

Mental health parity laws have been passed by the state and federal government. But there are legitimate questions as to whether health insurers are living up to the letter of the law. Last year, the biggest health insurer in California was fined $4 million by the state for limiting patients' access to mental health treatment and therapy.

This incident is disturbing and should make all of us wonder how widespread the denial of treatment really is. Without an accurate way of measuring health insurers' performance in meeting parity laws how can we be sure they are adhering to the laws?

Today, health insurers' compliance is measured by complaints filed by consumers. The voluntary process requires a person, who may very well be suffering from mental illness, to file a complaint with the insurance company and see it through.

I have a proposal that calls for insurers to survey consumers, counselors, and doctors as well as provide documented evidence to evaluate the company's compliance with parity laws.

More than ever, access to mental health services is essential to Californians. About 2 million people in California need mental health treatment, according to a 2011 report by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. About half of adults and two-thirds of adolescents with mental health needs did not get treatment, the California Health Foundation reported.

To ensure mental health parity compliance is passed this year, I encourage you to write me and I will give your letters to my colleagues. Click here to obtain a sample support letter. Speak out for change!


CONSERVE WATER

Governor Brown has officially declared a state of emergency, triggered by a third consecutive year of extremely dry conditions. In fact, 2013 was the driest ever recorded in California history.

Water year 2014, which began on October 1st, continues this trend. Statewide reservoir storage going into our wet season was about 75 percent of average for this time of year, and, according to the State's Department of Water Resources, impacts of two dry years on statewide groundwater levels are also evident.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is already monitoring water resources, with the current conditions meriting a yellow "cautionary" tag.

Our reservoirs and rivers are reaching very low levels. Let's do our part to conserve water by using it wisely.


INTERNSHIPS

My local office in Campbell offers internships to capable college and high school students who are interested in how state government works and the issues that affect California.

Among an intern's responsibilities are data entry; research; handling inquiries from constituents; community outreach - such as staffing events and projects; the ability to work a few hours at an occasional weekend or evening event; and more.

The qualities and skills we look for in applicants are excellent writing; initiative; deductive thinking; reliability; good interpersonal skills; proficiency in typing, Microsoft Word, and Excel.

Hours are flexible. The internship is an unpaid position.

If you're interested please contact Senate District 15 Field Representative Domingo Candelas by email or phone (408) 558-1295.