October 2014 Newsletter

October 21, 2014

Dear Friends:

Nearly 73,000 students will receive taxpayer-funded tuition credits to pay for their education at the California State University (CSU) and the University of California (UC) thanks to the Middle Class Scholarship, a new grant program that was a part of the 2013-14 state budget.

The average awards for the 2014-15 school year will be $1,112 per student for those enrolled at a UC campus and $627 per student for those enrolled at a CSU campus, according to Patti Colston, a spokeswoman for the California Student Aid Commission. On a scale that decreases as a student's income increases, the largest grants were $1,710 per student and the smallest were $90 per student.

The Legislature created the Middle Class Scholarship program to assist students from families with annual incomes between $80,000 and $150,000 and who would probably not be eligible for existing state and federal assistance. The awards were established to be relatively low at the outset but have the potential to triple over the next three years, covering 10 to 40 percent of UC or CSU tuition, should additional funding become available.

California universities have experienced historically high fee hikes over the past 10 years, with tuition rates increasing by more than 190 percent at UCs and more than 145 percent at CSUs. Students at UCs and CSUs currently pay annual tuition of $12,192 and $5,472 respectively. To learn more about the Middle Class Scholarship program, please visit the California Student Aid Commission at: website.



State Controller Unveils Open Data Website on Local Government Finance
State Controller John Chiang unveiled a new open data website last month, listing more than 13 million fields of financial data for cities and counties as part of his ongoing efforts to promote transparency in government. The site, ByTheNumbers.sco.ca.gov, makes it easier for taxpayers to track revenues, expenditures, liabilities, assets, fund balances and even basic statistics about each city and county in California.

The site's financial information currently covers an 11 year period -- from fiscal year 2002-03 through 2012-13 -- and was provided by California's 58 counties and more than 450 cities. Depending on public interest, data for preceding decades will be incorporated in future website upgrades.

As required by law, the Controller's Office has been collecting and publishing this data in a paper format since 1911. The new website makes it easier for users to look up data, download raw numbers, create charts, and search for other financial data by offering dropdown menus that provide specific financial information in significantly greater detail than offered in the previous paper reports.

The Controller elected to construct the By The Numbers website using an "open data" format that allows information to be viewed, downloaded, converted into charts and shared. The website will be updated annually with new information received from local governments.

Later this fall, the Controller will introduce major upgrades to the website that will not only include additional tools and features based on user feedback, but will also provide data for each of California's approximately 130 pension systems. The pension data will include: assets and liabilities; additions to plan assets, such as employer and employee contributions; deductions to plan assets, such as benefit payments and administrative expenses; statistics on the number of active, inactive and retired members; and net return on investments and actuarial funding.



California Secures $6.8M Federal Grant to Begin Construction of the Central Coast Veterans Cemetery
On September 29th, Congressman Farr and I held a press conference at the Veterans Transition Center in Marina, California, to announce that the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (USDVA) approved the California Department of Veterans Affairs' (CalVet) design for the California Central Coast Veterans Cemetery at the former Fort Ord and awarded $6.8 million in federal funds to build the cemetery. This means that the state can now begin construction of the first phase of the Veterans Cemetery, a 17 acre columbaria that will include 5,000 niches.

Efforts to construct the Veterans Cemetery started in 1994, when the United States Army Base at Fort Ord was decommissioned. Last year, CalVet submitted the initial cemetery application to participate in the federal Veterans Cemetery Grants Service Program for Fiscal Year 2014. Since that time, the state has worked tirelessly to meet several design deadlines in order to be eligible for the federal funds. Any delay would have prevented the federal government from awarding the $6.8 million grant and potentially jeopardizing the entire project.

Being awarded grant funds from the USDVA to build the Veterans Cemetery is a tremendous accomplishment for veterans, the local community, and the state and federal governments. I am grateful that we are on the threshold of realizing a dream that so many people worked so long to make happen.

Senator Monning and Congressman Farr

California Certified Organic Farmers Tour
Earlier this month, I had the unique experience of attending a California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) tour of three unique organic farms: Pinnacles Organically Grown Produce, High Ground Organics, and Pie Ranch.

Pinnacles Organic Farm, owned and operated by Phil and Katherine Foster, boasts up to 60 diverse produce products at the peak of the growing season and is partnering with researchers, such as Professor Alex Gershenson, to help the industry better understand the economic and environmental benefits of soil science.

High Ground Organics, operated by Steve and Jeanne Pedersen, has a unique farming operation that focuses on conservation and environmental stewardship. During the tour they highlighted their efforts to provide organic foods to schools and community-supported agriculture boxes.

Pie Ranch, owned and operated by Jared and Nancy Lawson, allows visitors to better understand and explore their personal relationship to food and the food system through interactive and educational farm experiences.

I was inspired by the diversity of farms that I was able to visit and want to offer a big thank you to CCOF, especially Cathy Calfo and Kelly Damewood, who organized an educational and fun tour.

Jared Lawson of Pie Ranch, Cathy Calfo from CCOF and Senator Monning

San Luis Obispo County Annual Public Safety Appreciation Dinner
I attended the annual San Luis Obispo Public Safety Appreciation dinner, where service men and women from 10 different departments were honored. Sergeant Brian Amoroso of the San Luis Obispo Police Department; Battalion Chief Bob Bisson of the San Luis Obispo Fire Department; Deputy John Penaflor of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department; Officer Jason McEwen of the California Highway Patrol; Detective Dave Henriksen of the Cal Poly University Police Department; Senior Officer Nicole Canby of the Morro Bay Police Department; Fire Captain Don West of the Cal Fire, San Luis Obispo Unit; Child Interview Specialist Tracy Nix of the San Luis Obispo District Attorney's Office; Lieutenant Christopher Garino of the California Men's Colony; and SFC Jeffrey Carmon of the Camp San Luis Obispo Security Forces, were all honored. It was a privilege to meet these impressive service men and women who go above and beyond to protect the community. Special thanks to the Elks Lodge #322 for organizing and hosting this annual event.

Tour of Olam International in Gilroy
Recently I had the pleasure of touring the Olam International Gilroy facility. Gilroy's largest employer, the Gilroy Olam International facility is the largest processing facility of dried onions, garlic and capsicums in North America. Thank you to Olam International for the informative tour.


Thank you for taking the time to read my newsletter.


William W. Monning
Senator, 17th District