June 2013 Newsletter

June 15, 2013

The state’s new $96.3 billion spending budget approved by the Legislature this month reflects a cautious approach after years of cuts. It devotes new revenue – generated by voter-approved tax increases and a bump in business tax receipts – primarily to education and to paying down the debt accumulated during the recession.

Under the Governor’s budget, virtually all schools will see an increase in base funding per pupil. Schools that serve students from low-income families, foster care kids, and students who are learning to speak and write in English will receive additional funding. Each school district will also have a stronger voice in how their allocation is spent. To find out how your school district fares under the new budget, click here.

The budget also begins the phasing in of a reduction in tuition for University of California and California State University students of middle-class families who earn between $80,000 to $150,000.  Depending on their incomes, these students will see a 10 to 40 percent cut in current tuition costs once the program is fully implemented in 2014-15.

The new budget includes targeted investments in areas that have been priorities all year including restoration of dental benefits for 3 million adult Medi-Cal recipients and more money for mental health services. I, along with my colleagues, believe investing in these cost efficient programs will result in greater savings down the road, better outcomes and services to our residents.

The new spending plan adds $63 million to the courthouses open and operating more efficiently.
This budget represents a first step back on the path to recovery after years of drastic cutting. There are still many critical programs that demand funding solutions.

For example, $10 million was slashed from the Early Start program, intervention services for children up to 3 years who have who have a developmental delay or at risk of a delay. Every day a youngster is denied services is another day lost to helping the child gain independence as an adult, a circumstance that increases public costs.

The abysmally low rate of reimbursement for Medi-Cal providers will force many to leave the system, constricting the health services available to the poor and driving them to more costly emergency room visits.

But the good news is if the economy continues to gain momentum, we can soon start to address these issues.

The need to improve our roads and mass transit systems was reinforced by a report issued last month that calculated traffic congestion in San Jose had risen by an astounding 25 percent over the past year.

As a legislator and during my tenure on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, I lobbied for the funding that is now bringing BART to San Jose and rebuilding the Interstate 280/I-880/Stevens Creek Boulevard interchange, including a direct I-280 to I-880 connector.

Now I am urging the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which is prioritizes Bay Area transportation projects for federal and state funding, to support the financing of two important proposals for our community:

•    Funding for the second phase of the I-280/880/Stevens Creek project to construct a Winchester Boulevard exit from northbound I-280.

This off-ramp would siphon as much as 40 percent of the traffic from the I-280/Stevens Creek exit, making it far easier, safer, and faster to get to Santana Row and Westfield Valley Fair Mall, which together generate more than 20 million visits annually.
•    A study of the Interstate 680 corridor to determine how to reduce habitual rush-hour traffic jams extending from Milpitas to downtown San Jose. The study would examine issues such how to increase capacity and whether on- and off-ramps need to be realigned.
Here’s a progress report on some of the recent steps taken last month to improve traffic:

•    The BART to San Jose project began excavation for the Berryessa station’s substructure footings as well as pile driving.

•    A $16.8 million construction contract was awarded by the Santa Clara County Valley Transportation Authority for continued improvements planned for Capitol Expressway and VTA’s future rapid transit and light-rail corridor. The project is financed with voter-approved Proposition 1B bonds and with the sales tax receipts from Measure A.

As part of the construction, VTA will begin rebuilding the Eastridge Transit Center to provide better access for bus service and to prepare for pending transit service upgrades. Final phase plans call for extending light rail from the Alum Rock station to the Eastridge Transit Center.

The Legislature has designated June as “California Small Business Month’’ to honor the 3.1 million small businesses owners, employers of  more than half of the state’s private workforce.

In San Jose’s Japantown stands an outstanding example of a small business that has woven itself into the fabric of the community – Cukui, Senate District 15’s Small Business of the Year.

Brothers Jason and Orly Locquiao opened the creative apparel shop and art gallery two years. Cukui quickly became part of the community and its staff has immersed themselves in Japantown’s festivals and charitable events.

In the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan’s north coast, Jason and Orly raised over $8,000 for relief efforts by selling newly created iPhone cases and T-shirts.

The store’s name is derived from the Hawaiian name for the candlenut and the tree, which means enlightenment.

Some of you may recognize Orly’s name. He is also a tattoo artist and has the distinction of applying tattoos on 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Help restore the shine at Goss Elementary School. Volunteers are needed to paint, clean, and redecorate classrooms, the cafeteria, and playground. Click here for more information.

United Way Silicon Valley Day of Action
Friday, June 21, 8:30am-12:00pm
Goss Elementary School
2475 Van Winkle Lane, San Jose