There is much to report after a very busy start to our legislative season! The Governor laid out his proposed budget and presented the State of the State. I have begun to introduce new legislation and am working with my Assembly and Senate on ideas for bills they have that I can also support.
My priorities this year are very clear. I want to strengthen public safety and education and help the economy recover as quickly as possible. So far this year, I have presented two bills that reflect those goals: SB 58, which freezes public higher-education tuition, and SB 144, the Realignment Reinvestment Act. You can read more about both below.
I’m still working to finish up the work on the rest of the legislation I plan to introduce and will be sure to let you know what those bills do and how they will affect you.
Please remember that my door is always open, and I really appreciate a direct dialogue with you. And if you’re not able to drop by my office, you can contact my office 24/7 through my website if you have any questions, comments or insight to share.
Keep your friends and neighbors informed about what’s going on in Sacramento and around the 12th Senate District by forwarding this email so they can sign up to receive our eNewsletters as well.
Governor Brown’s Proposed Budget
Every January, the Governor proposes a budget for the upcoming fiscal year. This typically lays out his major goals for the budget negotiations with the Legislature. The Governor will also issue a revision of his plan in May when we get a more accurate grasp on the state’s finances following tax season.
This year’s budget was very different than I’d experienced so far. We are no longer facing multi–billion dollar deficits. In fact, the Governor’s budget proposes paying down the debt we have racked up over the past few years. I was really pleased that the Governor put such a large emphasis needing to continue to rein in spending, especially as revenues climb, in order to finally tackle what has been called our “wall of debt.” Even though the budget is balanced, we have to remain cautiously optimistic. Any hiccups in the economy or new spending can cause a quick return to deficits.
I am also in favor of looking at his approach to school funding and am interested in examining the proposal he put forth. I agree that we should place greater emphasis on local control, so each community can best address their needs.
If you have any thoughts or concerns about the budget, again please contact me. I would love to hear your ideas!
State of the State
Last month, the Governor also outlined his goals for this year in his State of the State address. When it came down to it, I agreed with most of what he had to say. He emphasized job creation, education reform and fiscal responsibility.
As part of his goals to help create jobs, he called for reform to the California Environmental Quality Act, more commonly known as CEQA. As a civil engineer, I have been working with CEQA throughout my career. I believe that the goals of CEQA are valuable to our communities, but reform is needed so that special interests can’t subvert the process and hold a project up in litigation.
The Governor also reinforced an idea he had presented in his budget—transforming the way we fund schools by sending more funding and control right to the teachers on the front line. In a state as diverse as ours, it makes perfect sense that local school boards are provided funding to use how they see fit. They are the ones that best understand what programs should be prioritized, not the bureaucrats in Sacramento.
The bulk of the rest of his speech stressed the need to live within our means by practicing fiscal responsibility. We have temporary taxes in place that, along with a stronger economy, are going to result in large surpluses. I agree with him that this should be an opportunity to pay down our debt and save for the next downturn.
Legislation to Freeze Higher–Education Tuition
In November, voters approved Proposition 30, which was titled “Temporary taxes to fund education” on the ballot. California voters resoundingly approved the tax increase. However, the text of the initiative did not completely match what was being sold to the voters.
While there is a formula through an older initiative called Prop 98 that guarantees a portion of the funds will go to K–14 education, there is nothing to protect the UC and CSU systems. To address this, I introduced SB 58, which would freeze tuition across higher education while the taxes are in place.
We owe it to California voters to ensure that the new taxes are going to the programs they voted to support. This bill does exactly that. By freezing tuition, our children do not have to enter college in fear of 20% annual increases.
I am a parent of 4 children—all under 11 years old. I take preparing for their future very seriously and have already begun saving for their college education. With such drastic increases in tuition, there is no way for my wife and me to know for sure that what we are putting away will be enough.
The non–partisan LAO has shown that these new taxes will bring in billions of dollars that will fall into a surplus. Those funds should be used to backfill the university and community college budgets so we are not placing that financial burden on the backs of students.
SB 144, the Realignment Redevelopment Act
In 2011, prison realignment was proposed as a “safe and secure” program to reduce our state prison population by sending prisoners who fit a specific profile to county jails. Only criminals who are not violent, haven’t committed sexual crimes and are not gang members were to be sent from state prisons to local jails. Unfortunately, what has happened is we have overburdened counties by not providing them the resources they need to adequately deal with this new population.
When I sat down with the sheriffs in my district to discuss how the program was working, I heard frustration about being given responsibility for these criminals without the funding to keep all of them behind bars or to provide the rehabilitation services needed to turn their lives around. As a result, some of these criminals are being sent back on the street earlier than they should have and are reoffending.
In direct response to this feedback, I introduced SB 144, the Realignment Reinvestment Act. The bill provides additional funding for front line law enforcement, jail operations, community supervision and treatment services by reinvesting money that would have otherwise been spent in the state prison system in the absence of realignment into programs at the local level. The allocation of these additional funds is directly linked to the number of “realigned” offenders in each county, which is much more equitable than the current funding allocation formula.
Just as we fund schools based on attendance, this funding will follow the prisoner. In addition, we aren’t looking to use new funding to pay for the bill. The state has reduced their costs to run prisons and this bill simply takes that savings and reinvests it in our counties.
Knowing that there is no way to turn back the clock and change back to the old system, I want to make the new system better and will be working hard to get this bill signed into law.
Youth Violence and Gang Prevention Town Hall in Salinas
On February 21 from 5:30 – 7 PM, I will be hosting a town hall at La Paz Middle School in Salinas to address youth violence and gang awareness. As I’d mentioned earlier, one of my primary focuses this year is public safety. The town hall will provide an open forum for you to voice your concerns directly to local and state public officials so we can find solutions and make our communities safer.
Joe Gunter, Mayor, City of Salinas
Kelly McMillan, Chief of Police, City of Salinas
Manny Real, Chief Probation Officer, County of Monterey
Kent Shaw, Chief Bureau of Investigation, California Department of Justice
Erandi Garcia, News Anchor/Producer, Univision 67, KSMS-TV
La Paz Middle School is located at 1300 North Sanborn Road. For more information or to RSVP, please contact my Salinas office at (831) 769–8040 or Bill.Ritz@sen.ca.gov.
Mobile Office Hours in February
Please join my staff for mobile office hours in Livingston and Planada this month, where you can receive personal assistance on a variety of issues, including help with the DMV, the Employment Development Department, or matters involving other state agencies or state legislation.
Livingston Office Hours:
Tuesday, February 12
10 AM – 12 Noon
Livingston City Hall
1416 C Street
Planada Office Hours:
Wednesday, February 20
10 AM – 12 Noon
Planada Community Center
9167 Stanford Avenue
Feel free to call my Merced office at (209) 726–5495 to make an appointment in advance.
In addition to the great scores I’d received from the California Chamber of Commerce and the California State University for my work in 2012, I received the highest Summa Cum Laude score from the California Small Business Association and the California Small Business Roundtable and a perfect score on from the National Federation of Independent Business/California.
From John Kabateck, Executive Director of NFIB/CA:
“Senator Cannella has been a strong proponent of California’s small businesses since joining the Senate. We look forward to his continued support during the 2013 legislative session.”
In the District
With parade Grand Marshals Bishop Dwight Amey, Pastor of New Faith Tabernacle Christian Church; Wil Dean, owner of Merced Chevrolet; and Sheriff Mark Pazin at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march in Merced
At a community coffee in Salinas co–hosted by City Councilman Steve McShane