AB 171

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AB 171 (Does not affect AMVETS VSO, this bill is for County VSO’s only)

Veterans Service Organizations:  Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin (D-Camarillo), the 2015 Chair of the Assembly Committee on Veterans Affairs, has introduced AB 171, the bill to retain the CVSO’s funding level at $5.6 million and to make that funding level permanent.  For years the CVSO’s were stuck at a $2.6 million funding level even though state law stated that the state should be funding the CVSO’s at an $11 million level.  For the last two years, after extensive budget wrangling, we were able to get the level up to $5.6 million.  However, these were one time allocation levels and each year the Governor’s proposed budget would revert the level to $2.6 million.  The same thing happened this year.  Therefore, the California Association of County Veterans Service Officers are pursuing the same two pronged strategy to get the funding back to $5.6 million; via legislation (AB 171) and the legislative budget process.

It should not be assumed that the CVSO’s will easily get their funding increase again this year.  The natural inclination of the Governor’s Department of Finance is to reduce the CVSO’s budget.  The Governor campaigned on a platform of fiscal austerity.  Large cuts were made to social programs a few years ago.  The Governor is also trying to stock up a rainy day fund.  There are hundreds of large, well funded groups clamoring for a restoration of their funding.  In the past two years, we have had to pull out all the stops to get a $3 million increase.  These battles were fought all the way to the end of the budget process.  Well connected legislators, including the Speaker of the Assembly and the Vice Chair of an influential budget committee went to bat for our cause.  County Boards of Supervisors, Associations of Counties, police chiefs, and all the major Veterans Service Organizations pushed the effort and wrote hundreds of letters of support to the Governor.  It has taken a major effort for the last two years  just to get a $3 million increase in a $140 BILLION state budget!

This year, we should not assume that this year’s fight will be easier.  There is an intense push by dozens of large special interests groups for the same pool of money we are fighting for.  It is imperative that the CVSO’s  get the $5.6 million in funding and make it permanent, which is critical to helping them help veterans.

Remember, at the end of the day, there are only 56 CVSO’s and a few hundred county veterans staff.  The other interest groups fighting for the same budget dollars number in the tens of thousands. We need to leverage the power of our Veterans Service Organizations and individual veterans by gathering hundreds of letters of support for AB 171.

DAY AT THE CAPITOL 

The best way to get legislative support is to tell the Legislature about the importance of AB 171 to veterans.  The best way to do this is to attend the Day at the Capitol event on in Sacramento.

Pete Conaty

Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired)

Pete Conaty & Associates

1107 9th Street, Suite 530