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Statement from Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego)
“The Governor’s signature is the next step for a prudent and progressive budget that will make California a better place to live, work and play. We are sending more money to schools, helping working families by expanding child care and preschool and establishing a state Earned Income Tax Credit, and we improve higher education funding and financial aid. The budget the Governor signed today makes important investments and pays down debt while adding to state reserves. It is not only a reflection of our state’s economic health, but a plan that will continue to help build California’s fiscal fitness.
“While the budget signed today is clearly the best one we’ve had in years, there is more work to do on Medi-Cal, DDS and infrastructure. Today, I will be appointing the members of the Assembly committees for the special sessions that have been called on health care and infrastructure. Those committees will take the lead in resolving the important issues still before us.”
Speaker Atkins Joins Business, Labor and Local Leaders to Keep California Moving
Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins discussing California’s transportation issues at Fresno press conference.
FRESNO—Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins and a large coalition of local government officials, business leaders and transportation advocates today provided an update on the Legislature’s special session on transportation infrastructure. They emphasized the reasons why new infrastructure funding is vital to keep California moving.
“The Central Valley is vital to California’s economy, and fixing our infrastructure is vital to the Central Valley,” said Speaker Atkins (D-San Diego). “Many Valley communities and businesses are dependent on the lifelines provided by Highway 99 and Highway 5. They need to be kept in good shape. That’s why we are working closely with the state’s local elected officials and business community to ensure we can enact real solutions to the state’s transportation problems in this special session of the Legislature.”
“It’s fundamental that California be able to move goods and people in a modern, efficient way,” said Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., who called for a special session on transportation funding in June. “The problem is clear and we’re going to find the right path forward. The potholes don’t wait, the congestion doesn’t wait.”
A study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute found that peak-commute drivers in Fresno waste 23 hours a year sitting in traffic, resulting in an estimated cost of $495 per driver. More than 75% of motorists in Fresno County drive their own cars instead of taking public transportation, and that takes a heavy toll on the roads.
“Some of the roads in Stanislaus County are literally crumbling under my tires, and the Seventh Street Bridge in Modesto needs basic maintenance so badly it is no longer safe for heavy trucks and busses,” said Vito Chiesa, president of the California State Association of Counties and a Stanislaus County supervisor. “Reforms and accountability measures are needed to ensure taxpayer dollars are going toward transportation, but it is an indisputable fact that we need new revenues to address the severe maintenance backlog of our local streets and roads. I urge lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in Sacramento to find a workable solution. The longer we wait, the more it’s going to cost when we do finally fix our roads.”
Fixing all our roads now would cost more than $100 billion, but waiting 10 years would push the cost to nearly $300 billion. Every dollar invested in transportation infrastructure produces $5.20 in economic benefit, and every $1 billion that gets spent on transportation infrastructure leads to roughly 18,000 jobs.
Darius Assemi, Granville Homes President and CEO and California Transportation Commission Commissioner, added, “We need more revenue along with reforms to ensure Californians’ tax dollars are spent wisely, and solely used for transportation purposes to fix our deteriorating roads.”
Transportation funding has not kept pace with the state’s aging infrastructure. Most of the funding comes from gasoline excise taxes, which have not kept up with inflation. California collects 30 cents per gallon, a value that hasn’t increased in 25 years and, in fact, decreased by 6 cents in July. This means that the purchasing power of today’s excise tax is at an all-time low. Increased fuel-efficiency standards allow cars to travel more miles with less gas, also generating fewer gas-tax dollars to fix the roads.
According to multiple studies in recent years, California faces numerous transportation problems:
California has the second-highest share of roads in “poor condition” in the nation. More than half of our state roads need rehabilitation or pavement maintenance.
Our state has six of the 10 cities with the worst road conditions in the nation.
Nearly 1/3 of our bridges and overpasses show signs of deterioration, or do not meet design standards.
Nearly 70% of California’s urban roads and highways are congested.
SACRAMENTO—Legislation that seeks to reduce recidivism passed the Senate floor today on a 39-0 vote. AB 1056, the Second Chance Program for Community Re-entry, by Speaker Toni G. Atkins, would use Proposition 47 savings to house former inmates.
“By housing formerly incarcerated individuals, we can help successfully integrate them back into our communities,” said Speaker Atkins (D-San Diego). “AB 1056 can help reduce recidivism and enhance the safety of our communities by ensuring that these former inmates have a place to sleep as they pursue the goal of successfully re-entering the community and getting their lives back on track.”
SACRAMENTO—Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins announced today that she has appointed Mary Luévano to the California Coastal Commission.
Luévano, 50, of Culver City, recently took on the role of director of sustainability for Turf Terminators, a drought-resistant-landscaping company. Prior to that, from 1997 through June 2015, she was an environmental advocate with Global Green USA, a nonprofit organization committed to worldwide sustainability, rising from policy and legislative-affairs director to vice president. She began her career in public service by working for a number of elected officials at the state and national levels.
SACRAMENTO—The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) passed a resolution sponsored by Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins that encourages the federal government to responsibly budget for catastrophic wildfires. The resolution, passed by a unanimous vote, authorizes the NCSL to advocate on behalf of this policy before Congress and the federal government.
“Every day, firefighters risk their lives to stop the spread of disastrous wildfires, while states and the federal government struggle to find funding to fight bigger and more dangerous wildfires on federal lands,” said Speaker Atkins (D-San Diego). “Currently, federal wildfire funding is limited, placing a burden on state coffers and land-management agencies to pick up the tab. Changing federal policy to fund catastrophic-wildfire suppression through emergency spending would help ensure that states have enough funding to put out wildfires and invest in prevention programs.”
Today, the U.S. Forest Service spends more than half of its budget on firefighting, compared with 16% in 1995. Moreover, the cost of wildfire suppression has exceeded the 10-year budget average in the last eight years. This has led to an under-investment in wildfire-prevention and forest management activities, contributing to the frequency and intensity of wildfires in recent years.
Natural disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, are considered unpredictable and therefore classified as emergency spending and not subject to budget caps. This resolution, adopted during the NCSL August 2015 Annual Legislative Summit, would seek to have catastrophic wildfires treated similarly.
Through the resolution, Speaker Atkins and elected state officials representing all 50 states are urging Congress to change the wildfire funding mechanism without delay as the U.S. Forest Service only has $174 million left for fire suppression in the current fiscal year. Wildfires are expected to continue throughout fall so current federal budget limits will force land-management agencies to transfer funding from other accounts.
Regions not as strongly affected by wildfires also have a stake in this change because U.S. land-management agencies transfer funds intended for forest and wildlife management, trail and road maintenance, and critical-habitat restoration to accounts used for wildfire suppression, cancelling or severely delaying these types of projects.
Legislation introduced in Congress makes adjustments to spending limits for wildfire suppression. H.R. 167 is in the Subcommittee on Federal Lands and has support from 120 bipartisan co-sponsors in the House, 16 bipartisan co-sponsors in the Senate and 243 organizations.
SACRAMENTO—A bill seeking to provide better care to limited-English speakers passed the Senate Appropriations Committee today. AB 635, by Speaker Toni G. Atkins, would require the Department of Health Care Services to seek federal funding to establish a program that would provide funding to support medical interpreter services to limited-English-proficient Medi-Cal beneficiaries.
“Getting good healthcare shouldn’t be limited to only those who speak English,” said Speaker Atkins (D-San Diego). “Language barriers can contribute to inaccurate patient diagnosis, failure to treat ailments appropriately, and potentially unnecessary procedures and costs. This bill accesses federal funds to support a Medi-Cal interpreter program to meet the increasing demands of our diverse population.”
SACRAMENTO—Legislation by Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins that makes the San Diego River Conservancy permanent passed the Senate Appropriations Committee today.
“The San Diego River Conservancy has established its value in the region over the past 13 years,” said Speaker Atkins (D-San Diego). “The Conservancy has allocated $20 million in state funds for the watershed while leveraging millions more in federal, local and private funds. AB 392 would extend the San Diego River Conservancy indefinitely, strengthening this resource for generations to come.”
SACRAMENTO—A bill that helps prevent the extinction of elephants and rhinos passed the Senate Appropriations committee today. AB 96, by Speaker Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) and Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), would close loopholes that prevent the effective enforcement of existing California law prohibiting the sale of ivory.
“Every day, about 96 elephants are killed for their ivory – meaning that 35,000 elephants die every year for human vanity,” said Speaker Atkins. “California is the second strongest market for ivory, and illegal sales are estimated to have doubled during the last eight years. Often, elephants and rhinos are still alive as poachers begin the gruesome process of extracting the ivory.
SACRAMENTO—Under a bill by Speaker Toni G. Atkins, victims of domestic violence would be able to have their wireless telephone service providers transfer their accounts from their abusers. Today, AB 1407 cleared the Legislature on a 78-0 vote.
“Allowing victims to use their wireless phones is important to their safety and for emotional support,” said Speaker Atkins (D-San Diego). “This bill lets judges and service providers help individuals who’ve endured particularly difficult situations maintain a lifeline to life-saving resources and their support network.”
(Los Angeles) - Declaring the urgent need to keep California moving, Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) and a large coalition of local government officials, business leaders and transportation advocates gathered in Los Angeles to discuss the State Legislature’s special session on transportation infrastructure and the reasons why new infrastructure funding is vital to the state. “Currently, the state has $59 billion in deferred maintenance for transportation projects,” said Speaker Atkins. “We’ve been working with a broad bipartisan coalition to create a sustainable funding stream for transportation and the next step is working with Republicans in the Legislature. It may be a bumpy road, but we believe that we can find a solution that will concretely and tangibly make Californians’ lives better by making safer roads that keep goods and people moving.” Here’s more in this Assembly Access video. http://asmdc.org/speaker
LOS ANGELES—Declaring the urgent need to keep California moving, Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins and a large coalition of local government officials, business leaders and transportation advocates today provided an update on the Legislature's special session on transportation infrastructure. They emphasized the reasons why new infrastructure funding is vital to the state.
“Currently, the state has $59 billion in deferred maintenance for transportation projects,” said Speaker Atkins (D-San Diego). “We've been working with a broad bipartisan coalition that includes business and labor leaders, transportation experts and officials from the state, cities and counties. Our next steps will be working with Republicans in the Legislature. It may be a bumpy road, but we believe that we can find a solution that will concretely and tangibly make Californians' lives better by making safer roads that keep goods and people moving.”
(Oakland) – California State Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. and Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Development Committee, 1st Extraordinary Session gathered a large coalition of business, transportation and government leaders at a press conference at the Port of Oakland to shine a spotlight on one of the most important drivers of California's economy… our roads. It is no secret that California’s roadways are in dire need of repair and modernization. During the press conference, Speaker Atkins provided an update on the Legislature’s special session on transportation infrastructure and noted the need to act quickly.
“California cannot have a strong middle class or a thriving economy if our roads are congested and people and goods aren’t moving efficiently,” said Speaker Atkins. “That’s why in the special session I am hopeful we can set aside rigid ideology and consider serious proposals and provide a new, fair funding stream that benefits all California communities.”
Acting now to fix our roads comes with a hefty price tag, well over $100 billion. But waiting ten years would catapult those costs to over $300 billion.
Watch this Assembly Access Video to see portions of the transportation infrastructure press conference and to learn more about the Speaker’s plan to fix the roads. http://www.asmdc.org/fixtheroads