With a new year comes a new state budget and with it the opportunity for the Governor and the Legislature to lead California in a positive direction.
But once again, Governor Brown has squandered this opportunity.
In his proposed budget, the Governor takes aim at our disabled servicemen and women by targeting the Veterans Homes in Redding and Fresno for additional spending cuts. This comes despite the Governor's Department of Finance announcing that the state received $8 billion more in revenue than it anticipated in January last year.
Originally, the Redding home was slated to open sometime this year. But as part of last year's budget, the majority party elected to cut $7 million in funding from the project. This decision pushed back its opening to January 2013, depriving our local veterans of much-needed services. Under the Governor's new budget proposal, the opening date would now be January 2014 at the earliest.
By further delaying this project, many eligible veterans will be without services for another full year. This new home is vital to veterans living in the North State, and will provide them with access to medical care, rehabilitative programs, and opportunities to engage in activities with other veterans. Any additional delay is inexcusable.
It is especially disheartening given the fact that construction of the Redding facility will finish early this year, but will remain empty for two whole years. In a state that has the largest veteran population in the country, will see the largest number of veterans returning from our recent wars, and has an aging veteran population, it is unforgivable to turn our backs to them in their hour of need.
Cutting funds to these Veterans Homes also puts our relationship with the federal government in jeopardy. Acting in bad faith by delaying the opening of these federally-funded projects may make it difficult for California to leverage for federal dollars in the future. In fact, the California Department of Veterans Affairs already had to renegotiate its operating agreement with the federal government when the Legislature voted last year to delay the opening to 2013.
It is clear that the Governor believes he can use our veterans as pawns to convince members from these areas to support his proposal to raise $35 billion in new taxes. This is an inappropriate tactic and is disrespectful to those individuals who put their lives on the line for the freedom we enjoy in this country.
With businesses only just starting to recover from the economic downturn, and state tax revenues up by $8 billion, it is not only unnecessary to raise taxes - it would be catastrophic and further stall job creation in California.
Ultimately, it all comes down to a question of priorities. Last year, the Governor and the majority party made their priorities clear when they chose to protect funding for welfare programs and give pay and benefit increases to public employee unions rather than fully fund veterans programs.
As a legislator and grateful American, I will continue to fight for full support for our veterans in this year's budget. They should always be a top priority in any budget debate and should not be subject to the political tempest that naturally transpires.
The next few months in Sacramento will be challenging. I hope my colleagues will join me and do the right thing by restoring funding for both the Redding and Fresno facilities and supporting these men and women who gave so much for our country.
Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Lake Marysville, is a member of the Assembly Budget Committee and represents the 3rd Assembly District in the California Legislature.