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Town Hall with Assemblymember Bill Monning

bill_MonningWhat is your response to FEMA’s denial of Capitola’s request for emergency funds following flooding damages sustained during the spring?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) denial of a Presidential Declaration of a Major Disaster with regard to the series of severe storms that occurred in March of 2011 was a major disappointment. It is important to note that FEMA not only denied Capitola’s request, but that FEMA denied California’s request for all storm related damages in the state, including other impacted areas in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.

 

I have been working with Mike Dayton, the Acting Secretary of the California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA), to gather additional documentation and information for Gov. Jerry Brown to inform his decision of whether to appeal FEMA’s denial.

At my invitation, Secretary Dayton visited Santa Cruz County this past week and met with Santa Cruz Public Works representatives, Santa Cruz County Supervisors, and a diverse group of individuals representing those adversely impacted in the City of Capitola.

FEMA responded to the Santa Cruz Harbor following the tsunami caused by the devastating earthquake in Japan and should do the same with regard to the March 2011 winter storms. The individuals and communities impacted by the winter storms are in dire need of assistance and I will continue to work with CalEMA and the governor in urging FEMA to declare the severe storms an emergency.

**UPDATE 7/20/11** Assemblymember Monning has confirmed that Gov. Jerry Brown did issue an appeal to FEMA on July 14 asking the federal agency to reconsider their denial. Acting Secretary of CalEMA Mike Dayton will also submit a video documentary showing storm damage and resident interviews, hoping to reinforce the points made in the governor’s appeal that the storms caused extreme damage.

Now that the state’s budget has been signed, what’s in store for California? How will Central Coast residents be affected?

On June 28, 2011, the Legislature passed a balanced 2011-12 State Budget that represents six months of work and was achieved through a majority vote of Legislative Democrats. Passage of the budget does not prompt a sense of celebration as it is based on very difficult cuts to virtually every program in the state.

We protected funding for K-12 education, childcare, public safety and other critical programs, albeit with reductions to all. Unfortunately, additional cuts were made to higher education and the courts because the governor was unable to secure the necessary Republican votes to place a ballot measure before Californians on the question of whether to extend existing revenues in order to balance the state budget.

Central Coast residents will feel the impacts of this most recent state budget through continued programmatic cuts to virtually all public services.  I do want to highlight that over the past two budget cycles public education funding has been reduced by almost 18 percent. The 2011-12 Budget maintains K-12 funding at 2010-11 levels in order to provide local school districts with funding predictability for the next school year. Additionally, public works projects that are in partnership with the state, such as road and school construction projects, will benefit from California’s improved bond ratings decreasing the overall costs associated with these projects.

The current budget solution involves a Damocles’ sword of “trigger cuts” that will be implemented if the estimated revenue forecast is not realized. Should revenues come in below estimates, additional funding reductions will be “triggered” to K-12 education, health and human services, and public safety programs. This underscores the need for all Californians to engage in a dialogue about how we establish public spending priorities and how we fund these priorities in an equitable manner.

Why did you recently introduce a Joint Resolution about the federal debt ceiling?  What role does the state have in this federal issue?

Assembly Joint Resolution (AJR) 14 urges Congress to be responsible and increase the national debt ceiling without delay. Up until now, Congress has never failed to raise the federal debt limit. Should the U.S. government default on its debt payments, the health of millions of seniors across America will be jeopardized because the Medicare and Medicaid programs will be unable to provide the same level of services.

Twelve percent of Californian’s population is enrolled in the federal Medicare program and I introduced the resolution to bring attention to the fact that the healthcare safety net for some of the most vulnerable Californians is at risk.

President Ronald Reagan called on Congress in 1983 to increase the public debt limit. In his letter to then Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker, the President stated, “The full consequences of a default—or even the serious prospect of default—by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate.”

Unfortunately, politics is currently triumphing over policy, with little regard for the human impacts that not increasing the debt ceiling will have on Californians. It is my hope that AJR 14 will inform the federal debate and let California’s Congressional delegation know that the health and welfare of millions is at stake.

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