The Governor signed the 2015-16 Budget on June 24. The permanent $5,600,000 Local Assistance funding level for CVSO’s was approved.
It took 3 years to make the $5.6 million funding level permanent. This success is due to the hard work of many organizations and participants. It was part of the double pronged strategy to push this funding increase through. In conjunction with AB 171, the increased funding was lobbied to have it increased directly through the budget process. Both efforts complimented each other and AB 171 built popular support which enhanced the budget process efforts. In the end, the funding was inserted into the Legislature’s budget, which the Governor approved.
This could not have done without the following:
Veterans Service Organizations. Most importantly, the VSO’s provided the grass roots, public support for the funding increase efforts. The major Veterans Service Organizations who are active at the Capitol; namely the American Legion, AMVETS, California State Commanders Veterans Council, Military Officers Association of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Vietnam Veterans of America; represent well over a million Californian veterans and their dependents. Members of these organizations came to the Capitol numerous times to testify in support. AB 171 was lobbied heavily during all of their Capitol Lobby Days. Thousands of veterans from these groups called, faxed, mailed, or e-mailed the Legislature and Governor at every stage of the process for the last 3 years on this subject. Widespread grassroots support is mandatory for budgetary allocations such as this.
All CVSO’s know how important the VSO support was to this effort. They have asked me to convey their thanks to you.
Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), who as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Veterans Affairs, carried AB 171 and moved the bill all the way to the Senate. AB 171 had 43 Senate and Assembly coauthors. Irwin and her staff were also able to secure 41 signatures on a letter to the Budget committees regarding support for the funding.
Speaker of the Assembly Toni Atkins (D-San Diego). Speaker Atkins understands the vital work the CVSO’s do and has ensured that the Assembly has been in support of the funding increase since her tenure as Speaker.
Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) and Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), Chair and Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs respectively, fought hard in gaining support in the Senate. The Senate had always been a hurdle for past efforts to increase funding. Nielsen and Hueso went to bat for the cause by holding an informational hearing on the good works that CVSO’s do. In the final days of budget deliberations, Nielsen articulated the need for the funding in his role as one of the 6 members of the Legislature’s Conference Committee, while Hueso worked to secure the signatures of 25 Senators from both parties on a letter of support for our efforts.
Numerous Capitol staff people and advocates for counties and other organizations worked hard behind the scenes on pushing this through.
STRIKE TEAMS FUNDED AS WELL:
The CalVet Strike Teams at the V.A.’s Regional Offices were also funded at the $3 million level in the budget and the appropriation has been made ongoing at that level as well. This shows that the Legislature and the Governor now fully appreciate the importance of reaching out to veterans in the state and getting them their earned entitlements.
We will now move forward and work on legislation for next year to secure grants from the state for Veterans Service Organizations (who wish to receive state funding) who assist veterans in filing claims.
Pete Conaty and Associates
1107 9th Street, Suite 530
Sacramento, CA 95814
o- (916) 492-0550
f- (916) 492-8957