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Hilbert Morales  Publisher

Hilbert Morales
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Last Wednesday, January 22, 2014: Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. delivered the annual State of the State address highlighting his committment to “pay down our state’s debts and remember the lessons of history and California’s comeback by establishing a rainy day fund to help maintain fiscal stability. His report was to all of California’s residents, not just to the CA Legislature per Article 5, CA Constitution. Main topics addressed were:

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1) THE DROUHT: The Governor called for all Californians to conserve water, He laid out the key elements of the state’s long-term water plan and noted the work ahead to fight climate change. FEMA and The National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP) will help coordinate the federal response, working closely with state, local government, agriculture and other partners.

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2) REFORMS TO SCHOOL FUNDING  are happening at the local School Board level because of the LCFF policy. No better example of this can be found than in your enactment last year of the Local Control Funding Formula. This was a major breakthrough in the way funds are allocated to California’s schools so that our laws explicitly recognize the difficult problems faced by low-income families and those whose first language is other than English. As a result, those with less are going to receive more and that is good for all of us.

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3) CALIFORNIA’s ECONOMY: It created a million new jobs since 2010, a budgetary surplus in the billions and a minimum wage rising to $10 an hour! Now state spending and revenues are balanced with more to come. We should thank the voters of California. In 2010, through Proposition 25, they established a majority vote for passage of the state budget. That ended the gridlock. Then, in 2012, they approved the temporary tax increases of Proposition 30. These two initiatives, together with the recovering economy and tough legislative decisions made all the difference.

4) LONG TERM DEBT MANAGEMENT: A list follows:  A) Over $100 billion for pensions owed to state workers, teachers and judges; B) tens of billions needed to cover retiree health care; C) $65 billion needed to maintain and keep our roads, buildings and other infrastructure in sound repair. And D) Contingency funds for future risks that could negatively affect our budgets like congressional decisions, natural disasters and the uncertain costs of the Affordable Care Act. We must pay down our debts.

Fiscal discipline is not the enemy of our democracy but its fundamental predicate. To avoid the mistakes of the past we must spend with great prudence and we must establish a solid rainy day fund, locked into the Constitution.

5) EDUCATION: Local Control Funding Formula has made possible fine tuning the support of local priorities. Together with new Common Core standards for math and English, will be a major challenge for teachers and local administrators. But they are the ones who can make it work.

6) THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM: In the field of public safety, we have changed historic practices in our prison system and transferred significant responsibilities to local authorities. The Federal courts, backed up by the United States Supreme Court, have ordered major reductions in our prison population and dramatic improvements in the medical and mental health programs that the state makes available. In response, we have transferred the supervision of tens of thousands of lower level offenders from the state to our 58 counties. This realignment is bold and far reaching, but necessary under the circumstances. And local law enforcement has risen to the occasion.

Our prisons are pioneering new programs and treatments as are the counties. Realignment works because of probation, the district attorney, local judges and the police who try new ways to deter crime and help offenders straighten out their lives.We must build more capacity at the state and county level and becoming more effective with mental illness or drug addiction. But we are on the right track.

7) DEMOGRAPHIC TRENDS: California is a pioneer. We have 25 percent of the nation’s foreign born and CA is the first state in modern times to have a plurality of families of Latino origin. So it’s not surprising that California is the state still having too many struggling families, too much debt, and too many unknowns. Latino leadership must step up to this challenge.Dealing with and coping with these challenges will test our vision, our discipline and our ability to persevere. But overcome them we will and as we do, we will build for the future, not steal from it.

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