May 2014 Newsletter

May 23, 2014

Dear Friends:

Earlier this month, Governor Brown released his May Revised Budget and proclaimed the revised spending plan, "good news for California," directing higher than expected revenues to fund increased health care costs for low-income Californians through Medi-Cal and to support unfunded liabilities in the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS). When you combine these two items with the recently agreed upon Rainy Day Fund that will be on the November 2014 ballot, the May Revise does not make many significant changes to the original budget the Governor released this past January.

The increased funding for Medi-Cal in the Revise is a result of California's successful implementation of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Medi-Cal enrolled 1.4 million more people than was projected...a 46 percent increase...and the program now covers about 30 percent of the state's population. Although the federal government will pay for this expansion of coverage over the next few years, about 800,000 new enrollees fall under the 50-50 state-federal government cost sharing structure.

While the Governor admits that the state has a long way to go in addressing long-term pension debt, his May revise takes a step in the right direction by beginning to address one significant portion of this debt - a long-term unfunded liability in CalSTRS. CalSTRS is the largest educator-only pension fund in the world, with more than 868,000 members and approximately $183.3 billion in assets. Governor Brown's proposal would increase the state's contribution rate from 3 percent to 6.3 percent over three years. Teachers would be expected to increase their contribution rate over three years from 8 percent to 10.25 percent, a level on par with plans for other school employees. School districts, the third contributor to the CalSTRS fund, would be expected to increase their contribution rates from 8.25 percent to 19.1 percent, over seven years. This plan would fully fund CalSTRS' long-term liabilities in about 33 years.

Other modifications proposed in the Governor's May Revision include an increase of $659 million in state funding for the Proposition 98 minimum guarantee for education, because of a change in state revenues, lower property taxes, and increased enrollment in K-12 schools, as well as an increase of $60 million for California's court system. For more information on the budget timeline and process visit the Budget and Fiscal Review Committee's website.

The Senate is currently in the process of reviewing the Governor's proposed $107.8 billion spending plan and I appreciate all of the comments I have received about how we can best prioritize the state's budget.

DISTRICT NEWS

Scottish American Military Society Award
Recently, I was honored by the Scottish American Military Society (SAMS) and awarded the 2014 "Friend of the Admiral" for my dedication to establish the Central Coast Veteran's Cemetery on the Former Fort Ord. SAMS has been a longtime, staunch supporter of the Central Coast Veteran's Cemetery Foundation and it was my privilege to be recognized by such an outstanding organization, which has gone above and beyond to preserve the legacy of those who have served our country.

Senator Monning with SAMS National Councilor, Doug Kenyon
Senator Monning with SAMS National Councilor, Doug Kenyon

California's Wildfire Awareness Week
The first week in May was designated as Wildfire Awareness Week by Governor Brown and CAL FIRE to ensure that Californians are prepared for the wildfires that threaten California every year.

As a part of Wildfire Awareness Week, CAL FIRE hosted an informational media event at the Paso Robles CAL FIRE Air Attack base on May 7, 2014, to remind all of us that when it comes to wildfires, "Ready, Set, Go!" The "Ready, Set, Go!" program asks residents to be Ready for a potential fire by maintaining at least 100 feet of defensible space around their property; to be Set by creating an emergency preparedness plan; and to be ready to Go when a wildfire approaches.

The threat of wildfire will increase as the severity of the current drought increases this summer and into fall. As the recent San Diego fires demonstrated, we all need to be prepared.

For additional information on how to prepare yourself for wildfire threats, visit CAL FIRE’S website.

Santa Cruz Resource Center for Non-Violence Dedication of the Scott Kennedy Hall
On May 10, 2014, I was honored to be asked to speak at the dedication of the Scott Kennedy Main Hall at the Resource Center for Non-Violence in Santa Cruz.

The Resource Center for Nonviolence was founded in 1976 as a peace and social justice organization dedicated to promote the principles of nonviolent social change and enhance the quality of life and human dignity. Scott Kennedy was a lifelong international activist dedicated to sharing the values and lessons of non-violence. Additionally, he was a local community leader and a dear friend who I had the pleasure of knowing for over 30 years. I was proud to talk about the impact Scott had on our community and the world.

The Scott Kennedy Main Hall is aptly named, as it will be...just as Scott Kennedy was...an asset to the community and a living legacy of Scott's work.

Senator Monning with Scott Kennedy’s wife, Kris Kennedy. Photo Credit: Ruth Klotz-Chamberlin
Senator Monning with Scott Kennedy’s wife, Kris Kennedy. Photo Credit: Ruth Klotz-Chamberlin

Cities Association of Santa Clara County
The Cities Association of Santa Clara County held its annual general membership meeting and highlighted the long road that has been brought to fruition with the recent completion of Levi Stadium.

Scheduled to open in August for this year's season, Levi Stadium will be the new home of the San Francisco 49ers and host domestic and international soccer, college football, motocross, concerts and various other civic events. This state of the art facility has been under development since 2008, is Gold LEED certified, and would not have been possible without the support of the community and local government officials. Congratulations to all those who worked on this project and Let's Go Niners!

Thank you for taking the time to read my newsletter.

Sincerely,

William W. Monning
Senator, 17th District