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Nov 23rd
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Town Hall with Assemblymember Bill Monning

bill_MonningWhat were some of the positive and negative items contained in the governor’s May Revise of the 2011-12 State Budget?

One positive in the governor’s May Revise is that state revenues received this year exceed prior projections.

In January, California’s estimated budget deficit was $27 billion. In March we made $14 billion in extremely difficult cuts, leaving a $13 billion deficit to be resolved by June 15.  The increased revenues have reduced the anticipated debt during the 2011-12 Fiscal Year from $13 billion to $9.6 billion. While these revenue increases are an indicator of California’s slow economic recovery, we should not look at them as being sufficient to address the state’s ongoing debt and funding needs. 

Another positive in the May Revise is that K–12 education will receive a $3 billion increase in funding above the March budget package estimates, for a total of $52.4 billion in the 2011-12 Fiscal Year.

A hurdle facing passage of the May Revise is that it is still based on the assumption that there will be an extension of existing tax revenues. The governor and the legislative Democrats remain committed to providing California voters with a voice regarding an extension of existing revenues versus an “all cuts” budget. I applaud those in the 27th Assembly District who have organized and visited elected officials expressing their support for the extension of revenues. Step by step, I believe we can achieve a balanced budget and economic recovery by supporting the governor’s efforts outlined in the May Revise.

Local governments are seeing some changes passed down from the state as it grapples with its own deficit, such as realignment. Some local leaders feel the state is shifting burden onto cities or stealing local funds. What’s your take on the changing financial relationship between California and its cities?

It is critical to understand that while the governor’s initial realignment proposal challenged local governments to take on more responsibility, the governor also offered local governments increased authority over the realigned programs.

One of the proposals that has generated concern is the public safety realignment. In March, the legislature adopted the governor’s recommendation to expand the authority of local correctional administrators to use alternative custody methods and to establish a day-for-day credit for low risk offenders and parolees serving time in a jail facility. This proposal is designed to reduce state prison crowding while investing in community rehabilitation and reintegration.

Additionally, the May Revise eliminates the proposed realignment of mental health services, CalFIRE, and other cost shifts to local governments. I believe that these modifications are based, in part, on public input and testimony at budget committee hearings.

I remain resolute in my commitment to achieve a balanced budget built upon tough cuts and an extension of existing revenues. The realignment proposals can be fair, safe, and empowering to local communities, but their success is dependent on the extension of existing revenues.

The state parks closure list was recently released—what does this mean for the future of California’s state parks?

Out of the 70 parks scheduled to be closed statewide, eight are located in the 27th Assembly District. These are Castle Rock State Park, Garrapata State Park, Henry W. Coe State Park, Limekiln State Park, Moss Landing State Beach, Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park, Twin Lakes State Beach, and Zmudowski State Beach.

This list of closures is based on the budget cuts enacted in March and assumes there will be an extension of existing revenues. If we are forced to consider an all cuts budget, the park closure list will most likely grow.

When California was entrusted with state park lands, it was with the intent that the state would protect and manage them in perpetuity. The 70 parks that have been designated for closure are in some of the most beautiful areas of our state. The targeted closures in Central California are particularly distressing as I am keenly aware of these parks' beauty and their contributions to our local economies. While I understand the dire budgetary situation that has led to this decision, it is still a tragedy that these parks will no longer be open to the 5.6 million visitors they host annually.

The Department of Parks and Recreation is working to develop partnerships with cities, counties, and non-profits to keep as many parks open as possible. I am committed to working with all interested parties to attain this goal.

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