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How to Fix a Broken State

budget_100bucksAssemblyman Monning discusses state affairs at Town Hall meeting
With local unemployment hovering around 15 percent and social and educational services being cut left and right, Assemblyman Bill Monning stood in front of a crowded Town Hall meeting Thursday, April 30 and delivered the news that the hard times are not over. “The wave that has hit California that we call the Recession is rooted in the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression,” he said, “and we are still trying to find our way out of that.”

Monning went on to attribute many of the problems that California faces to the difficulties in raising revenue and passing the budget, both of which require a two-third vote in the assembly and senate (California is the only state with a two-third requirement for both passing budgets and raising revenue). This means that when the state found itself with an unforeseen deficit of 35 percent last year, (that’s $60 billion less than expected in 18 months) spending couldn’t be adjusted or revenue raised—and before you knew it California was handing out IOU’s to its employees.

Changing the two-third clause in the state constitution is possible, says Monning, but remains unlikely due to the two-third vote it requires to pass in both the assembly and the senate--essentially asking the minority to forfeit its present leverage. The two other means of reform--a citizen initiative or California constitutional convention--face the challenge of raising sufficient resources to collect signatures and combat the anti-tax crusade such measures would inevitably meet.

All is not gloom and doom, though. The passage of healthcare reform will provide coverage to around 4.5 million Californians, with children receiving the greatest coverage the fastest. While that still leaves many without coverage, Monning (who sits as the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health) made it clear that the healthcare bill does not prevent states from developing and implementing their own healthcare systems, providing the potential to extend and manage coverage within California--although considering our financial woes, such a system may remain a few years off.

bill_MonningQuestions following Monning’s address covered topics from the economy and budget cuts to local services, to immigration reform and offshore drilling. Frustration was apparent in many who spoke (one woman said she would need a few hours to have all of her questions answered) but seemed centered on the condition of California, not the job that Monning is doing in response to it.

A rather timely concern was expressed about the use of Methyl Iodide, a highly toxic pesticide used before large-scale farming operations. Monning reiterated his stance against the use of the pesticide and the potential health and safety threats it posses to farm workers. However, the following day (Friday, April 30) the California Department of Pesticide Regulation proposed registration of the pesticide for use in California. In a press release, Monning expressed disappointment with the proposal and a “hope that DPR will reconsider its decision.”

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