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Dec 21st
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Assemblymember Bill Monning

bill_MonningLast month, you participated in a UC Santa Cruz Legislative Forum on the state budget and higher education. What consensus and actions resulted from that gathering of legislators, local business leaders and UCSC students, faculty and administration?

I value the opportunity to listen first-hand to testimony about the impacts that budget cuts are having at UCSC.  The legislative forum convened by Chancellor George Blumenthal featured participation by a broad cross section of the UCSC community including administrators, faculty, and students.

Speakers focused on the impact of the more than $50 million in budget cuts at UCSC during the past two years. Deans spoke of the challenge of providing students the classes they need to graduate with reduced faculty positions, and a student spoke about graduate students who have been lost as faculty advisors. Many people expressed that the UC system is at a tipping point where its status as a world-class educational institution is in jeopardy, but the overwhelming consensus voiced was that the adequate funding of higher education in California is a key ingredient of future economic growth and development.

It was interesting that not all of the speakers at the forum supported the governor’s proposed constitutional amendment that would ensure higher education funding is equivalent to, or more than, the amount of money the state spends on prisons.  The governor and the legislature have the ability to prioritize higher education funding already but what is lacking is the political will to change the state’s funding priorities.

Now, it is up to the legislature and governor to craft the state’s spending priorities, and, as a member of the Assembly Committee on Budget, I will be working with my colleagues to advance and protect higher education funding. With an almost $19 billion projected budget deficit, we must keep all options on the table, including revenue options, if we are to restore California’s commitment to higher education quality and access.

Can the State of California do anything to assist families who are facing foreclosure?

At the Jan. 24 mortgage foreclosure workshop I co-hosted in Aptos, more than 125 participants heard from banking, legal, and other experts who offered information about strategies and resources that would empower borrowers who face default notices or foreclosure proceedings.

More than 2,500 Santa Cruz County and 8,500 Monterey County residents have faced foreclosure proceedings. Unfortunately, with continued high unemployment, the trend in foreclosures continues.

One positive outcome of the forum is that I will be introducing legislation requiring lending institutions to provide accurate contact information to allow borrowers to speak directly with a loan officer who has authority to discuss loan terms and conditions, even when the mortgage package has been sold to another institution.

At the state level we are continuing our efforts to assist homeowners but the ultimate cure must be at the federal level because a majority of home loan lenders are governed by the federal government. However, until this occurs, I will continue to work to assist those in our community facing the possibility of losing their homes.

In the governor’s State of the State speech he proposed funding state parks by opening up oil drilling off the California coast. Do you support this funding mechanism to keep the state parks open?

No. This is the second attempt by the governor to use the budget process to authorize new offshore oil drilling in California waters. His proposal to rescue the state parks with offshore drilling revenues represents a cynical and Machiavellian scheme.

It is important to note that the proposed PXP drilling deal would generate only $140 million of annual revenue to the state while placing our coastal integrity and habitat at risk. A better, long- term revenue-generating solution is an oil extraction fee on existing drilling operations on land that has the potential to generate $1 to $2 billion a year in new revenue for the state.

Last year, I led the fight to successfully stop the proposed PXP offshore drilling plan and, if necessary, I am prepared to fight to stop offshore drilling again.

We should not place one natural resource against another natural resource in order to resolve the current budget crisis. There are other viable solutions available to our State Parks and I will continue to fight to keep both our coast and our parks viable for future generations of Californians.

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