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01.13.10

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Time for Sensible Budget Solutions

By Bill Monning


DESPITE a collegial tone in his State of the State message, Gov. Schwarzenegger followed with a "slash and burn" budget proposal two days later. With a theme of "jobs, jobs and more jobs," the governor seeks to reconcile a projected $21 billion deficit over the next 18 months by cutting safety net programs that create and protect jobs. In addition, the proposed budget inappropriately juxtaposes economic growth against hard-fought environmental protections and public transit programs. While the governor, by his own admission, is in denial about this being his last year in office, he should not be denying that his budget proposal is unrealistic when it relies on $7 billion of new, uncommitted federal funds. If the state does not receive federal funds, the governor plans to eliminate funding to CalWORKs (the welfare to work program), the In Home Support Services (IHSS) program and the Healthy Families program. The elimination of CalWORKs, with 5,418 participants in Santa Cruz County, will result in loss of jobs and revenue. In fact, CalWORKs generates $3.9 billion annually in matching federal funds that in turn generate $7.1 billion in economic output, 137,000 private and public-sector jobs and $130 million in sales tax revenues. The IHSS program supports 2,500 participants in Santa Cruz County and, if eliminated, will jeopardize not only essential support care for disabled clients but also would require wage-earning family members to quit their jobs to provide family member support.

The governor seems more focused on bottom-line calculations than real-world impacts, as his budget plan is void of alternative budget solutions. The only alternative vision expressed by the governor seems to be a frontal assault on environmental protections in the name of economic stimulus. I believe this to be a false argument that undermines the governor's articulated support for A.B. 32 (reduction of CO2 emissions).

I have previously supported legislation to impose an oil extraction fee on existing land-based oil production. California could join all other oil-producing states that assess an oil extraction fee and would realize $1 billion in additional general fund revenue. By comparison, the governor seeks to revive support for new offshore drilling at Tranquillon Ridge that would generate only $100 million annually while putting our coastal environment at risk. Last year, we garnered a majority of votes to increase the Vehicle License Fee by $15 to sustain our state park system and to increase the tobacco tax to support children's health care. Unfortunately, these revenue options failed for lack of a two-thirds vote in the Legislature.

Not all of the governor's proposals will become law. The budget process will require his "all cuts" challenge to be vetted by the Legislature, and I remain committed to fighting for the underserved in our communities. It is my strong belief that our economic and jobs future is directly linked to the state's ability to encourage and support green technology, jobs and construction. This linkage is critical to the future of our economic recovery, as is the need to preserve existing job-creating programs. For the Legislature to be successful in challenging the assumptions and impacts of the governor's proposed budget, the engagement of an active citizenry will continue to be critical. The voices of constituents are heard by legislators and must be heard by the governor as well.

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Assemblymember Monning was first elected to represent District 27 in 2008. Prior to that, he was a professor at the Monterey College of Law and a professor of International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.


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