SACRAMENTO – Today, Assembly member Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) announced the Inland California Healthy Communities Act, which creates a sustainable funding source for clean drinking water, establishes a new University of California medical school in the San Joaquin Valley, and directs additional funds to the UC Riverside School of Medicine, all while allocating millions of dollars for public education.
“The San Joaquin Valley and Inland Empire do not receive the same level of attention and support as California’s urban centers and coastal communities,” said Gray. “Together, these regions represent a population on par with the state of New Jersey, yet our issues are often pushed to the bottom of the priority list. The Inland California Health Communities Act puts these communities first by addressing two historic inequities – the lack of access to clean drinking water and the worsening physician shortage.”
Gray’s proposal is funded by closing a tax loophole which allows gamblers to deduct losing bets on their state income taxes. The loophole was created by a federal tax law to which California currently conforms. Gray’s proposal would disallow the deduction on state incomes taxes, but gamblers would retain the federal deduction. The loophole costs the state more than $300 million per year, yet benefits fewer than 150,000 people, primarily millionaires and billionaires.
“This is a $300 million sin subsidy for the rich,” said Gray. “If Congress wants to pay to subsidize gamblers that’s their business, but we have families in California who cannot safely drink the water in their homes or get in to see a doctor. This proposal gives us a choice. Instead of taxing families, let’s end the gambling subsidy, clean up contaminated drinking water, and train more doctors in the communities that need them most.”
Gray is proposing to provide more than $100 million in new funding for public education and dedicate a minimum of $115 million annually to fund drinking water improvements for the one million Californians who are exposed to unsafe drinking water each year.
“Thousands of families throughout California are forced to buy bottled water, because they cannot safely drink the water in their own homes,” said Gray. “They are essentially forced to pay two water bills. It’s another example of just how expensive it is to be poor.”
During his final term in office, Governor Brown proposed a new tax on water connections to fund clean drinking water, but the State Legislature ultimately rejected his proposal. Governor Newsom has made health care and clean drinking water priorities of his administration since day one. Before he took office, Governor Newsom visited UC Merced and the UCSF-Fresno medical center. On his cabinet’s first day of work, the Governor put his staff on a bus to Stanislaus County to speak with residents who cannot drink the water in their homes. The Governor has repeatedly pointed out the hypocrisy of Valley residents paying higher water bills than people living in Beverley Hills.
“Governor Newsom has gone out of his way to make inland California a priority,” said Gray. “I am confident we have a strong ally on these issues.”
In addition to clean drinking water, Gray’s plan calls for an expanded budget for the UC Riverside School of Medicine and the establishment of a new UCSF medical school branch campus in the San Joaquin Valley. Last year, Governor Brown signed Gray’s Assembly Bill 2202 into law, which established an endowment fund for a San Joaquin Valley medical school and enshrined a partnership between UCSF, UC Merced, and the UCSF-Fresno regional medical center into law.
“We have dreamed of establishing a medical school in the San Joaquin Valley for more than twenty years,” continued Gray. “As one of the fastest growing regions of the state, we must address our long-standing doctor shortage before things get even worse. By recruiting future doctors from our own communities, and educating them locally, they are more likely to stay close to home and practice medicine where we need them most. This medical school will focus on improving access to care region-wide by keeping our homegrown talent local using a proven model that is already making a difference in the Inland Empire.”
Gray is seeking inclusion of the Inland California Healthy Communities Act in the State Budget.