By Mary O’KEEFE
Senator Carol Liu answered questions about the state of the California budget during a visit to Verdugo Hills Hospital on Friday. The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors’ local chapter hosted the event.
Liu explained that the budget committee was reviewing the budget this week and she expected recommendations to go to the conference committee next week.
“The conference committee, made up of the Assembly and Senate, will go over those items that had not been agreed upon,” Liu said. She added this committee replaces the traditional “big five” committee, which was made up of specific legislative leaders and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In the past there had been accusations of deals being made because the discussions were held behind closed doors. The new committee will be open, discussions and decisions no longer being made behind closed doors, Liu said.
“I hope we get a budget by June 15, the end of our year is June 30. We are so far out of whack. [The legislature] is so far apart from deciding what to cut and what to save but California will run out of money in August so I feel a decision on the budget will go through. We feel the pressure,” she said.
Liu added that although most of her constituents do not feel the direct affect of what is happening in Sacramento the infrastructure of the state is weakening.
“If you have kids in school you are affected by [the budget] with increased class size and whatever the school district determines they must do to balance their budget,” she said.
“What is the answer to the state budget….So what do we do [about the budget]? Do we just wait and see?” asked Len La Bella, CEO of Verdugo Hills Hospital.
Liu said during this time of waiting for a budget decision her office has been looking into some of the programs in California to see if they are running in the most efficient way. Her solution to some of the programs that are being financed by the state is to look at how they are working. For example a consolidation of health and human services to where one office takes care of several issues. Since the programs are seeing the same people for the most part it would make more sense for one office to approve an application instead of making applicants go from office to office, she said.
A question was asked about federally mandated programs that are not supported by promised federal funding. Liu said this has been a problem and that the state does not receive adequate funding from those mandated programs.
“The mandate system for the school districts have not been successful,” she said. “Like the Special Education legislation that was passed 20 years ago. The [federal government] was supposed to pay 40%, they have only been paying 17%. There needs to be a better partnership.”
The NAIFA invited Liu to discuss the issues that affect their clients.
“As a non-partisan effort we strive for a professional relationship with legislators that will promote an open dialogue for understanding,” said Suzonne Slaughter, past president of NAIFA’s local chapter and current chair of Political Involvement Committee. “This breakfast [was] an opportunity for us to hear about current state legislative issues from Senator Liu’s prospective and share some of the concerns expressed to us by our clients, many of whom are her constituents.”