Senate Leader Dean Florez visits the Bay Area Council

By Matt Regan

Senate Leader Dean Florez (D) Shafter, visited the Bay Area Council this week to give us the inside scoop on the state budget woes and what we should expect to see coming our way in the next month in terms of cuts and taxes. He was surprisingly upbeat and optimistic given the current fiscal situation in Sacramento and stated unequivocally that a bipartisan budget deal would be sent to the Governor by the end of the month that would not involve any new taxes.

The Senate appears to have put together the framework for a $21 billion program of cuts to state programs and services that would close the deficit, with just some minor details yet to be worked out. The only potential roadblock to a resolution appears to lie with the Governor who would like to see an additional $4.5 billion in cuts to establish a rainy day fund to offset future deficits and avoid unnecessary harmful cuts. Senator Florez and his caucus is making the argument that, while they agree in principle to the rainy day fund, the rainy day is actually here today, and that any additional cuts would cause irreparable harm to too many Californians.

Having made almost $15 billion in cuts already this year and witnessing the voters reject any new revenue streams, our legislators are faced with the very painful task of making deeper and more impactful cuts to vital programs and services, particularly to our already underfunded education system. Senator Florez was hopeful that the education cuts would not reach into the classroom that that the savings could be made by eliminating many of the burdensome state mandates that generate tons of paperwork and eat up thousands of man hours per year.

On a somewhat brighter note, the Senator left us with the good news that he fully expects a water bond to pass this year with bipartisan support. The bond would include provisions for two surface storage projects as well as conveyance and conservation. If there is a silver lining to our current fiscal crisis it appears that it just might be forcing the warring parties in Sacramento to sit down and work together to accomplish something important for the greater good.

Thanks to Chevron for hosting this enlightening policy discussion and to Caroline Rodman for making it happen.

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