Image courtesy of: Santa Rosa Press Democrat
“The January Budget was projected to have a healthy one-time surplus and focused the new funds on building up the state’s Rainy Day Fund to prepare for the next recession. Since that time, revenues have continued to grow. Capital gains are projected to be at an all-time high and state unemployment is at an all-time low. Despite strong fiscal health in the short term, the risks to the long-term health of the state budget continue to mount…” - State Budget Document May 2018.
Earlier this month, Governor Brown released his revised budget. On its surface, the state’s fiscal situation appears to be in good shape. California is experiencing record low unemployment and there appears to be a budget surplus of nearly $9 billion dollars. However, one need only look a little further to understand that California claiming to have a surplus is similar to an individual having a positive bank balance but maxed out on all of their credit cards. Case in point, despite recent pension and retirement benefit reforms, California is still facing nearly $291 billion in unfunded liabilities. To put that in perspective, the estimated total general fund state budget is $137 for the upcoming fiscal year.
As we work to finalize the budget over the next several weeks, I will continue to fight for a fiscally conservative approach that holds the line on increased spending/program growth, addresses our unfunded liabilities and adds to our rainy day fund.
As college costs continue to climb yearly, many parents worry about how they will pay the costs of a college education for each of their children. Although parents can’t stop rising costs, they can save for college by contributing to a tax-free 529 college savings plan. Funds in a 529 account can be used to pay tuition, room, board and other costs at a four-year college, community college, vocational or technical school. Contributions to the account are not taxed by the federal or state government when they are made or when they are withdrawn to pay for qualified educational expenses.
However, these contributions are not tax deductible - they don’t reduce the amount of income tax a contributor owes when a contribution is made. Senator Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado) has authored Senate Bill 1218 (SB 1218) that would allow contributions to California’s ScholarShare College Savings Plan to be deducted from state income taxes - up to $3,000 for an individual contributor and up to $6,000 for a couple filing jointly. Anyone who contributes to a qualified ScholarShare account - students, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles - can claim the deduction. The goal, according to Senator Gaines, is to encourage saving for college in order to reduce the amount of loans students or their families need to pay for education after high school. The fact that any contributor is entitled to a tax deduction encourages extended families and friends to help save for college.
College loan debt haunts many college graduates or their families for a decade or more after graduation. According to LendEDU, more than half of all students attending California colleges graduate with student loan debt. Also, on average, students attending a public four-year college in California end up owing $22,488 in federal student loans that have limited interest rates and specialized repayment options. However, many students, particularly those attending private colleges, graduate with student loans issued by private lenders that do not defer interest or limit interest rates. According to The Institute for College Access and Success, nearly one-fifth of student debt is comprised of these non-government, private lender loans that total on average $13,600 per student and carry interest rates as high as 13 percent. Even federal educational loans are becoming a more expensive funding option. For the 2018-19 academic year the federal government has increased interest rates on federal loans to students and parents, meaning more money will be owed over the course of repaying the loan.
The ScholarShare website offers extensive information about the program, including how to set up an account and make regular contributions. It breaks down the benefits of saving for college costs rather than taking out loans and offers an interactive list of 10 reasons why ScholarShare is a good way to pay college costs. There also are planning tools that provide the pros and cons of 529 savings plans compared with other college saving and payment options. Those interested can participate in a ScholarShare webinar or contact the ScholarShare team for personal information about the benefits of participating in California’s 529 college savings plan.
On Monday May 28th, we take the day to honor our servicemen and servicewomen who have gave their lives protecting our freedom. There are several events in our district that give us the opportunity to pay our respects. Listed below are few events that are open to the public. If you do not see an event close to you your local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post will often be able to assist you.
Sutter Creek - Amador American Legion Post 108 will have a Memorial Day ceremony on Monday starting at 11 AM at Memorial Park next to the American Legion Hall in Sutter Creek. Lunch will be served at 12:30.
Murphys - Free Memorial Day Concert at Murphys Park, performed by the Calaveras Community Band, in honor of the brave men and women who have served, and continue to serve, our country. The Band will be performing patriotic pieces, as well as music by Benny Goodman, The Beatles, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, and more. Murphys Community Park, 505 Algiers Street in Murphys.
Fresno - Fresno Memorial Gardens hosts the 54th annual VFW Memorial Day Service. More than 1,400 full-size American flags will line the avenues with a patriotic concert performed by the Front Line Quartet and the Fresno Stag and Thistle Pipe Band. 11 a.m.
Fresno - Woodward Park Sunrise Service organized by Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 933. Park fees have been waived and refreshments will be served. Lakewood Picnic Shelter, 7775 N. Friant Road, Fresno. 5:45 a.m.
Sonora - The 3rd annual “Memorial Day; A Celebration of Our Heroes” at Christian Heights Church is a chance to celebrate the Holiday as well as recognize and thank our local heroes. Christian Heights is located at 13711 Joshua Way.
Modesto - Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion will conduct their annual drop of flowers from the Seventh Street Bridge into the Tuolumne River to honor those lost at sea. The flower drop will take place at 9 a.m. Monday. The groups then will move to Graceada Park for a ceremony.
Hughson - Modesto American Legion Post 74 and other veterans organizations of Stanislaus County will present a ceremony at 1 p.m. Monday at Lakewood Memorial Park, 900 Santa Fe Ave., Hughson. It will include presentation of the colors by the California National Guard, a flag pole ceremony by California State Honor Guard, a wreath ceremony and white dove release. The 191st Army Band, also known as the Band of the West, will perform, as will the Golden Valley Chorus. The Avenue of Flags display and the Poppy Crosses will be on display until 3 p.m.
myMotherLode.com - Capitol Frog Jump Promotes Calaveras County
We are starting to use Twitter and Facebook more and more to communicate with all of our constituents. It’s cheaper and more efficient than many of the traditional methods of communication, like mailings and earned media.
The 8th Senate District is 27,000 square miles - one of the largest districts in the Senate and about the size of Rhode Island. To better serve you, I have set up three regional district offices with great staff available to listen to your opinions on legislation, lend a hand with problems you may be having with state agencies, or arrange an appointment with me. We also hold mobile office hours (see below). Please do not hesitate to contact one of my local offices if we can be of assistance.
State Capitol, Rm 3067
Sacramento, CA 95818
6215 N. Fresno St. Suite 104
Fresno, CA 93710
Sutter Creek Office
460 Sutter Hill Rd, Suite C
Sutter Creek, CA 95685
102 Grove Ave, Suite B
Oakdale, CA 95361