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May 22nd
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Assemblymember Bill Monning

bill_MonningState Democratic legislators are still working to get the necessary Republican votes needed to pass the budget. What is the current status of the budget?

Last week the governor vetoed the majority vote budget passed by Legislative Democrats. The governor’s veto message states that he still wants a vote by Californians on the question of whether to extend existing revenues in order to balance the state budget.

Since January, we have been working on a balanced approach of cuts and revenue extensions to address this year’s budget and the state’s long-term budget deficit. This responsible approach was rejected by Republicans. Because there was no more time left for negotiations, Legislative Democrats passed a majority vote budget that was responsible and balanced. While our budget made additional, difficult cuts to higher education, the courts, and local redevelopment programs, we avoided an “all cuts budget” that would have further targeted education, health and human services, and public safety program, as well as protected jobs and future job creation.

Legislative Democrats have been meeting with the governor this week to explore additional options that will achieve a balanced budget solution, as the governor remains committed to securing the necessary Republican votes to take a revenue extension ballot measure to voters. An election can still be scheduled and I still remain hopeful that we can reach an agreement with Republicans that will give California voters a voice in how we balance the budget.

What is the economic outlook for the 27th District, and Santa Cruz County in particular? What should the state and federal governments’ roles in job creation be?

In its analysis of the May Revise, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Office stated the state’s immediate economic future has improved since February and is estimated to outpace the federal recovery.  However, the state’s labor market is expected to remain weak, with unemployment staying above 10 percent until early 2013.

Specifically, with regard to Santa Cruz County, unemployment has historically been around 6.5 percent.  However, the County ended 2010 with an unemployment rate of 11.2 percent, almost double the historic average.  The nationwide housing collapse hit California and Santa Cruz County particularly hard and this has had a ripple effect throughout the local economy.

Government at all levels, federal, state and local, serves a role in fostering and maintaining jobs. For the past two years, the Legislature has fought to encourage job growth and maintain existing jobs within the community. In the budget that was just vetoed by the Governor, I worked diligently to restore and protect childcare service jobs, Adult Day Health Care jobs, education related jobs, and public safety jobs, all of which are critical to our local economy. As budget negotiations continue, I remain committed to maintaining these in a final budget package.

Additionally, I have led efforts to expand enforcement against the underground economy which hurts workers and law-abiding employers through the introduction of Assembly Bill (AB) 397, which will require certification of worker’s compensation insurance during a contractor’s licensing renewal, and AB 766, which will help the state enforce against those participating in the underground economy.

You had a large volume of comments and feedback from Santa Cruz County residents on measures before the full Assembly prior to the house of origin deadline.  Can you please highlight a few of these bills?

Two of the bills that generated the largest volume of comments over the past few months were Assembly Bill (AB) 1319 authored by Assemblymember Butler, and AB 837, authored by Assemblymember Nestande.

AB 1319 would prohibit the sale of plastic food containers with bisphenol A (BPA) if the item is primarily intended for use by children three years old or younger.  The National Toxicology Program is concerned about the neural and behavioral effects of BPA in children and, as of today, there are still bottles and cups marketed to infants and toddlers containing BPA.  I supported this bill because we need to exercise the precautionary principle to protect our children.

AB 837 would prohibit the selling of a plastic food or beverage container that is advertised with a specific amount of recycling content unless the producer can certify that the claim is scientifically accurate.  This bill will assist in stopping the practice of "greenwashing,” the false or inaccurate suggestion that products are environmentally friendly.  Like many of you, I try to be a conscientious consumer.  However, there is no way for us to know when the amount of recycled content in a food or beverage container is accurately represented.  AB 837 will deter this fraud, promoting a level playing field among plastic food and beverage container producers, and I am proud to have supported this measure as well.

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