The Kenwood Press|
State Senator McGuire gives update to VOM Rotary
Ann Q. Peters
On Friday, March 8, State Senator Mike McGuire (Second District) was the speaker at the Valley of the Moon Rotary Club. McGuire covered a lot of territory in a short amount of time, focusing on California’s economy, roads, affordable housing, homelessness, emergency services, and the recently closed Sonoma Developmental Center.
He rattled off some impressive statistics. California’s economy is the fifth largest in the world, and if the nine Bay Area counties were a separate country, they would be the 19th largest economy in the world. We have record low unemployment and the state’s rainy day fund is $19 billion. McGuire said that $4 billion of that surplus will go to pay down pension liabilities this year.
By 2022 the state will have universal preschool and guaranteed community college tuition. But California is 42nd in dollars invested in public schools and needs to invest more in career training and job skills at the high school level.
Speaking about the Affordable Care Act, McGuire said that today 6.9 percent of Californians do not have health insurance, down from 17 percent before the ACA was enacted, but if the law were to be repealed it would cost the state $20 billion per year.
There’s a $50 billion backlog of highway repairs, and a $70 billion backlog for county roads throughout the state. McGuire said that going forward, Sonoma County will be getting an extra $11 million per year for roads. He emphasized the need to rebuild Highway 37 to prevent flooding, and he would like to see a rail line added to that project, connecting Highway 101 to I-80.
About our recent fires, McGuire said that climate change is real, and that Cal Fire is in need of more fire engines and staff. The legislature is allocating $5 billion over the next five years for fire prevention and response, $2 billion of which is for prevention alone. As for emergency alerts, he said that starting in 2020, Nixel will be an opt-out system, as opposed to the way it is now where residents need to proactively sign up for it.
McGuire reported that the state is allocating $12 billion for workforce affordable housing. Chronic homelessness, on average, costs $100,000 per person per year in jail stays and unreimbursed hospital stays, whereas sheltering people in places like the Palms Inn in Santa Rosa (a public-private partnership with Sonoma County and Catholic Charities) has been cost-effective and successful. Twenty-five percent of the chronically homeless in California are veterans, as are many Palms Inn residents. The state plans to spend $2 billion on 14,000 new “Palms Inns” with wrap-around services, statewide.
Turning to the Sonoma Developmental Center property, which has $120 million of on-site challenges, McGuire stated that his number one priority is to protect open space, and number two is to work with the community to come up with a governance model for the approximately 150-acre core campus, which will be unveiled in the coming months. “The state should pay for it, and the county should run it,” he said, adding, “It has taken longer than we thought.”
On immigration, McGuire said that 30 percent of California’s workforce is undocumented, and that while we need safe borders, without these workers, “Our construction, ag, and hospitality industries will collapse.” He noted that last year eight people on the terrorist watch list crossed the southern border of the U.S., and 30 crossed the Canadian border.
When asked about the political tension between the Federal government and California, McGuire emphasized that people need to be willing to compromise, which is seen as a sign of weakness these days, concluding, “When we’re having to fight for disaster funding, we’ve gone off the rails.”