February was a very productive month for the legislature as Democrats and Republicans came together and worked in a bipartisan manner to close the mid-year budget gap. My colleagues and I passed a package of budget bills that make a sizable dent in our deficit. Senate Democrats also introduced a package of legislation that will create at least 140,000 jobs in California. Following a succesful trip to Washington D.C., we will receive $675.4 million in financial relief in new federal healthcare funds.
While California’s economy is still struggling, there are signs of hope: foreclosure rates are down, homes sales are steadily rising, California’s exports are increasing, and state revenues last month were better than expected.
As always, please contact me or my staff with any of your needs – we are here to serve you. My district offices can be reached at (916) 651-1529 (Downtown Sacramento Office) or (916) 338-6577 (North Highlands Office).
In this e-newsletter please read about:
- Democrats Release Agenda 2010: A Plan for 140,000 Jobs
- Furloughs and Budget Cuts Disrupt Tax Collection
- State Makes Mid-year Progress on Budget Deficit
- State Offers Energy Assistance Programs
- A New Long Term Care Resource
- Free Online State and Federal Tax Filing
- Recovery Act Update
- Tax Credits Help Families with College Fee Increases
- California Arts License Plate Fees Now Considered Charitable Deductions
- March Events Calendar
- Little League and Farmers’ Markets Signal Springtime in Sacramento
Darrell Steinberg, Senate President pro Tempore
6th Senate District
Democrats Release Agenda 2010: A Plan for 140,000 Jobs
In an effort to apply state resources more efficiently and create jobs, Senate Democrats unveiled “Agenda 2010” – a plan to create 140,000 jobs. Agenda 2010 proposes to create jobs without dismantling workplace or environmental protections, and without new taxes.
Agenda 2010 is a modest package of 27 bills focusing on jobs, smart investments, education and working families. It invests existing state and federal funds in targeted projects, expands jobs in the new economy, prepares Californians for jobs in growth industries and provides working families with sorely needed relief.
A summary of the plan, with detailed fact sheets on each bill in package, are available here online.
Furloughs and Budget Cuts Disrupt Tax Collection
On February 18, the Senate passed legislation authored by Senator Steinberg authored to restructure the Governor’s furlough policy. The bill, SB 8X 29, received strong bipartisan support with a 30-6 vote in the Senate.
A recent report by the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes found that for every one dollar California saves by furloughing workers at the Franchise Tax Board (FTB), it costs seven dollars in taxes those workers are not able collect. The report, “Furloughs at the Franchise Tax Board: Loss is Seven Times Greater than the Savings,” is available for download.
According to the report, the loss of uncollected tax revenue by furloughing FTB employees will negate nearly one-third of the $1.66 billion savings expected from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s mandatory furlough program.
The State Controller’s Office says the bill will exempt nearly 80,000 state employees from the Governor’s furlough program – bolstering the General Fund and potentially creating more than 4,000 private sector jobs.
On February 26th, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ordered back-pay to 53,000 state employees after ruling that Schwarzenegger’s furloughing of special-fund agencies was illegal. The Governor’s office is currently appealing the judge’s decision.
State Makes Mid-year Progress on Budget Deficit
In February both houses of the Legislature spent time in their budget committees reviewing the Governor's mid-year proposals to address the state's budget deficit.
At the close of the 8th Extraordinary Session on March 11th, the Legislature had presented the Governor with approximately $4 billion in mid-year reductions.
These actions were the first steps in addressing a projected $19.9 billion deficit facing the state. These solutions strengthen the State's position in the bond market and help ensure sufficient cash reserves throughout the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
The summary of the solutions are as follows:
General Fund Solutions:
- Expenditure reductions: $2.2 billion
- Alternative funding: $1.2 billion
- Fund shifts/other revenues: $551 million
- Federal funding relief: $76 million
- Revenues: $0.0 million
State Offers Energy Assistance Programs
California is offering $350 million in rebates through the Solar Water Heater Assistance Program. Administered by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the program offers up to $1,500 to homeowners who install a new solar water heating system. The program is administered by PG&E, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas and Electric, and Southern California Gas Company.
For low income families struggling with winter heating bills, the CPUC administers the California Alternative Rates for Energy (CARE) program. CARE is available for families enrolled in public assistance programs. Go to California Alternative Rates for Energy page for a list of programs that qualify.
Families whose income does not qualify them for CARE may qualify for the Family Electric Rate Assistance Program (FERA). This program may apply to customers of Southern California Gas and Electric, San Diego Gas and Electric, and PG&E. Please check the website for income eligibility and contact information.
A New Long Term Care Resource
The California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF), an independent philanthropy committed to improving the way health care is delivered, has launched a new website to help constituents find long term care options in their area.
CalQualityCare.org is a user-friendly resource for individuals and families looking to identify the best facility for their needs. Finding long term care facilities or home care providers in your area is as easy as entering your zip code and entering the type of desired care. If you’re unsure what type of assistance you may need, there’s an easy-to-use search function to help you navigate through the process.
CalQualityCare.org was created to assist families in making long term care decisions. The web site is sponsored by CHCF, in partnership with the University of California at San Francisco.
Free Online State and Federal Tax Filing
State Income Tax
California offers free, state-of-the-art online filing on its CalFile site. Over one million Californians are eligible for a ReadyReturn. To qualify for ReadyReturn, you must have filed a return in 2008 under single or head of household filing status with only wage income. Visit the Franchise Tax Board's website to see if you qualify for ReadyReturn.
Federal Income Tax
The Internal Revenue Service also offers free online filing through the Free File program. Visit the IRS website to learn more.
Special Tax Assistance
Elderly taxpayers, and those with limited means, can get free state and federal tax assistance through the VITA program. Visit the Franchise Tax Board's website to find a VITA site near you.
Recovery Act Update
Recovery Act funding continues to come into the state.
Click here to learn more.
Click here for a toolkit for Small Businesses (SB) and Disabled Veteran Business Enterprises (DVBE) to help locate, apply, and compete for federal, state and local recovery projects.
Tax Credits Help Families with College Fee Increases
In the wake of the University of California and California State University systems raising fees by 32 percent, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will help families and students with tax credits for college expenses over the next two years. The American Opportunity Credit will be available to tax filers to help offset college expenses paid in the 2009 and 2010 tax years.
The Hope Credit is available to most taxpayers whether they owe taxes or not, and is open to individuals with a gross modified income of $80,000 or less, or those filing joint returns with a gross modified income of $160,000 or less. Many taxpayers are eligible for up to $2,500 per student. The period that parents may now claim the credit was increased from two to four years. More information is available at the IRS website.
California Arts License Plate Fees Now Considered Charitable Deductions
According to a ruling by the state’s Franchise Tax Board, the sponsorship fees associated with specialized California Arts license plates are now tax deductible charitable donations. That’s even more incentive to become a California art lover!
Revenue collected from Arts license plates support arts programs for children and communities. In fact, over 60 percent of the California Arts Council’s budget comes from sales of the Arts Plate. Californians can directly support arts and creativity in the state by getting (or giving) one.
More information on the Arts Plate is available online at the California Arts Council.
March Events Calendar
||Free Dental Screenings
||Saturday, March 13th from 8:00 a.m to 3:00 p.m./td>
||Davis CommuniCare Health Center
||Free dental screenings and fluoride varnish for Yolo County children ages 0 to 5. Spanish language translators will be available. Dental screenings are only available for children 0 to 5 years of age who live in Yolo County. Parents should call (530) 757-4667 for an appointment and mention “Saturday Clinic.”
||Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Festival
||Saturday, March 13th from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
||Click here for specific date, time and location or call Senator Steinberg’s District Office at (916) 338-6577
Little League and Farmers’ Markets Signal Springtime in Sacramento
As the weather improves around the Capitol region, please join your friends and neighbors outdoors for two of our community’s favorite pastimes.
It’s time to play ball! We hope you find this list of Sacramento District Little Leagues with corresponding tryout and opening day dates, times and other relevant information useful.
Also, while some Farmers' markets in our region are year-round, many are only open during the summer months. Support local farmers and allow your family to enjoy fresh produce for better health with this list of certified farmers’ markets in Sacramento County.