Looking back at 2011, it can feel like quite a turbulent year for the State of California: deep cuts to education and social services, a divisive political climate, an economic slump. What toll did the year’s events take, and where will our Golden State go from here?
California continues to face a very tough budget situation. The economic repercussions of the collapse of an under-regulated Wall Street in 2008 continue to impact our national and state economies. It is in this context that we have sought to balance California’s budget with ongoing deficits as revenues have dropped by as much as 30 percent. The legislature presented a balanced budget to the governor on June 30 of this year, but that budget included certain “trigger cuts”—cuts to be made in the event that projected revenues fall short. The governor’s Finance Department issued its assessment on revenues on Dec. 15 and the governor then indicated when trigger cuts will be implemented. As we enter the final six months of the 2011-12 budget year and begin working on the 2012-13 budget, Gov. Brown has indicated that he will ask voters to support a temporary tax increase to help protect public education, higher education, and public safety in our state. As a member of the Assembly Budget Committee, I look forward to my return to Sacramento for the 2012 legislative session when we will begin working on the 2012-13 budget.
The recalcitrance of the minority party in the legislature to engage in negotiations on budget solutions has made the task of protecting California’s future all the more difficult and frustrating. It is my belief that at the federal and state levels, those who take an oath of office to uphold the Constitution should be prevented from signing pledges to remove tools of governance from the table as has been the impact of those who have signed the Grover Norquist pledge never to raise taxes anytime. I believe the stakes are too high and the people of California deserve the commitment of solution-oriented representatives.
On a more positive note, what were some of the high points for California—and the 27th District, in particular—in 2011?
Amidst the budget storms, I was proud to have secured the governor’s signature on all 10 bills that I successfully moved to his desk. Of interest to local and regional residents would be the success of the California Veterans Cemetery bill (AB 629), which allows members of the Veterans Community in the Central Coast region to move forward with the planning, design, and implementation of this important project. We also secured support for the removal of the San Clemente Dam on the Carmel River, which is required for seismic safety. The preferred plan supported by the environmental community, the California Coastal Conservancy, and many other stakeholders will now move forward assuring the protection of Carmel Valley River residents and habitat. I also advanced three bills into law with the cooperation of co-author Bill Berryhill (R-Ceres) that provides more enforcement tools to agencies working together to curtail the underground economy throughout the state. Our mutual interest in this effort is to provide protection for law-abiding business owners/contractors and workers.
We are still feeling the impacts of the foreclosure crisis here in California. What is currently being done to address this issue?
Despite the recent small economic and employment improvements being seen throughout California, foreclosures continue to threaten homeowners. Unfortunately, the effects of the “robo-signing” practices executed by banks and mortgage servicers are still being felt and far too many homeowners are still losing their homes. Foreclosures in the state increased 17 percent in October 2011 to a 13-month high of 29,240, and California has the second highest foreclosure rate in the country. In Santa Cruz County it is estimated that one in every 329 housing units received a foreclosure filing in October 2011.
Recently, California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced that her office has entered into a joint alliance with the Nevada Attorney General’s office to investigate the nation’s mortgage industry, promising to hold lenders responsible for inappropriate home lending practices. This collaboration and sharing of resources will expedite the process of interviewing witnesses, subpoenaing documents and developing litigation strategies, with the ultimate goal of helping homeowners as soon as possible.
California’s partnership with the State of Nevada follows Attorney General Harris’ decision this past October to pull out of the nationwide settlement talks with the country’s largest banks because the proposed settlement was financially inadequate and failed to hold banking officials accountable for their past actions. I commend Attorney General Harris’ efforts to provide a little justice to victimized homeowners and applaud her creative approach to resolving this critical problem.
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