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|League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
Read the answers from all candidates.
1. What does California need to do to address the current budget crisis?
I believe the Governor and the Legislature have failed to solve the budget crisis because they have avoided the only solution -- Tax Reform.
Stew Jenkins's record cutting taxes:
I am the only candidate in the race for the 33rd Assembly District who has cut taxes in prior elected office. Serving 1979-1989 as a Commissioner for the second largest taxing district in San Luis Obispo County, the Port San Luis Harbor District, I discovered that Harbor operations brought in more money than the Harbor spent -- and yet a tax was being levied when no public purpose or project justified a tax. I was able to cut the tax to Zero.
Only when Avila Beach and the Avila Pier were to be transferred to the Harbor District did the public need justify a modest tax to support maintenance and improvement of that public recreational destination. It is this kind of common sense approach that I pledge to institute in Sacramento.
Restore Local Control:
We need to prevent the Legislature and the Governor from siphoning off local tax dollars from our cities, counties, and school districts. Local voters have passed local property taxes over the years to fund their own schools, police, fire protection, and other essential services. I will work to end the state raid on the local cookie jar.
Reform California's Inequitable Tax System:
According to the non-partisan California Budget Project, Californians earning $18,000 a year pay 11% of their earnings, while those earning $580,000 a year pay 7%, in State and Local Taxes. From the lowest to the highest earners, the percentage of earnings taxed steadily decreases in California. This regressive tax structure is the result of the repeal of the top tax bracket, and the repeated passage of special tax breaks for wealthy special interests over the last two decades. Corporate taxes have been slashed in the name of job creation -- yet jobs have been exported at an ever faster pace.
As one of 80 Assembly members, on election I do not foresee passage of the easy solution -- a Flat Tax. I will take on the long and hard task of working through our complex tax code to strip out the special interest and corporate loopholes that have gutted our budget and destroyed the public's trust. I will work to end the regressive nature of our tax system, and seek to simplify it. I will work to restore funding for schools, police, fire, road construction, health care, parks, rail repair, the California Conservation Corps, and other needed services.
Protecting Our Homes
The Home Owner's Exemption enacted in 1938 excluded the first $7,500 in value of any primary residence from taxation. This Home Owner's Exemption has never been raised, or indexed, to account for inflation. Believe me, any home worth more than $7,500 in 1938 was a luxury residence of the well to do. I propose that the Home Owner's Exemption be indexed based on the cost of living index since 1938.
End Unintended Extension of Proposition 13 to Big Corporations:
Proposition 13 was intended to protect our homes and farms. The voters never intended it to give a windfall to Big Corporations like Monsanto, Microsoft, or Standard Oil. I will propose legislation that rolls back the extension of Proposition 13 to these types of large corporations that never die, rarely sell their land, and forever enjoy the benefits of land assessed at 1973 values. This corporate tax advantage has crushed the ability of city and county budgets to keep up with the growing cost of schools, fire protection, road maintenance, and police protection. No one can truly make the case that giving such tax breaks to Union Oil or ARCO has reduced the cost of gasoline. It is time for large coporate interests to pay their fair share of the costs to maintain our schools, our police and fire protection, and other local services.
2. What should the state's priorities be for K-12 education? For the Community College System?
Education for our next generation and for workers displaced by the "new economy" is our highest priority. We must stop listening to those who seek to divide our communities with claims that we can't offer our children a good education AND have police on our streets, firefighters in our communities, health care, or well-maintained roads (to name just a few examples). The reality is that over the next two decades, every dollar spent on education will return to the State of California many, many times multiplied. I believe we can, and should, invest in education without shirking our responsibilities in the Public's other needs.
When I was young, California had the best schools in the nation. Now our schools range within the bottom third in funding and quality. Stew Jenkins will take the following steps to improve our state's Public Schools, K-University.
Smaller Class Sizes:
Children learning in smaller class sizes (20 or fewer students)receive more individual attention and guidance to learn math, science, reading, and writing. I will fight to restore the progress California was making in Education by hiring more teachers to support smaller class sizes through all elementary grades.
Early Diagnosis & Treatment of Learning Disabilities:
Twenty to twenty-five percent (20%-25%) of children walking into Kindergarten suffer from learning disabilities that prevent those children from succeeding in school, in employment, and consequently, in life. Remedial programs cost local schools, and California, millions of dollars every year. My program to provide early diagnosis and treatment of learning disabilities in kindergartener through third grader will save millions of dollars in remedial education; the children will benefit socially and academically from a better start in school, and our schools will be empowered to provide a quality education for all our children. The business community will benefit from an increasing skilled labor pool to operate the engine of California's economy.
Increased Dual Emersion Education Opportunities:
Parents are discovering what scientific studies have shown: that most children taught in two primary languages (Dual Emersion) in every subject from Kindergarten through High School, actually learn more and are more proficient in math, science, history, and naturally reading and writing skills than children taught only in their native language. My program to increase enrollment opportunities in Dual Emersion schools will provide Central Coast parents a choice in education that best suits their children.
Full Funding for Community Colleges & Public Universities:
Since Californians voted to amend the State Constitution under Proposition 98, the state legislature has funded Community Colleges up to the level dictated by the people only once in the last 10 years. Stew Jenkins will work hard to solve the budget crisis in order to roll back residents' fee increases for attending Community College.
Recent increases in California's public university fees have amounted to a multi-billion dollar tax on education and a reduction in enrollment. California's State Universities were originally designed to provide a free education to any California student earning a B average in high school. Taxing education only encourages ignorance. I will work to solve the budget crisis to roll back fee hikes. Only by giving our young people the best education in the world, can we maintain and grow the 5th largest economy in the world -- our State of California.
3. What measures would you support to address California's water needs?
In the 33rd Assembly District, the coastal waters off San Luis Obispo County have been so degraded, and the creeks, rivers, and fish habitat so impacted by development, that fisheries have collapsed and commercial fishing has been banned by Fish & Game. I propose providing displaced fishermen and fisherwomen with job opportunities restoring the natural systems that supported, and that can in the future support, abundant fisheries.
Central Coast communities like San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Cambria, Lompoc, and Santa Maria have all faced years when water supplies dropped below community needs. Many of the conditions that led to water shortages, coupled with local population growth, resulted from the degrading of environmental systems like forests and water sheds. My programs to restore forests, creeks, and river systems on the Central Coast will reverse this trend, and Create Good Jobs and Sustainable Communities.
Poorly planned, sprawling development has contributed to environmental degradation and loss of water resources. My programs to provide communities with state funding incentives to build parks, better schools, public transit systems, provide available health care, and add police and firefighters to well-planned neighborhoods with higher densities result in a variety of affordable housing units available in every community. All such development will require new units to be built with water conserving technology.
I will protect the rights of our coastal communities to utilize desalinization, provided any such plant is constructed and operated in such a way that the coastal environment and fishery habitats are not degraded.
4. What should the Legislature be doing to address the needs of Californians without health insurance?
I believe that access to good health care is a basic human right. I believe that injury and illness are our common enemies, more dangerous that Saddam Hussein or al-Queda. Fighting disease and injury is no less important in rural counties, like the Central Coast, than it is in urban centers. Californians require a plan that permits physicians to focus on healing where ever they practice, rather than having to fight mountains of insurance-mandated paperwork. Waiting on the Federal Government for solutions is no solution. We can work together to solve our own problems as a State.
Rebuild County Public Hospitals & Clinics:
San Luis Obispo County and northern Santa Barbara County have each had a hospital closed in the last three years, and other hospitals are threatened with closure -- even though the local population has grown markedly. Besides revitalizing health care, and providing fair insurance compensation to physicians, I will seek funding to rebuild a public hospital in San Luis Obispo and in northern Santa Barbara County.
Health Insurance Reform (permitting physicians to tend the sick on the Central Coast):
Big, Wealthy Insurance Companies have been cherry-picking: covering the healthy, dropping those who are ill, excluding pre-existing conditions, and denying or delaying valid claims filed by patients and physicians alike. Big, Wealthy Insurance Companies provide physicians in rural counties like San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara counties with lower payment for services than are provided in LA. In some cases these companies will simply stop writing policies that cover rural counties. Stew has the right recipe for reforming Health Insurance:
1. Require Insurance Companies writing health policies anywhere in California to provide coverage everywhere in California -- for the same premiums.
2. Require Insurance Companies to provide reimbursements to physicians in rural areas equal to the higher amounts paid in urban areas, so Central Coast physicians do not have to move away to make a living.
3. Establish in each County a Health Insurance Denial Review Board to provide an Immediate, Timely, Local Review of any denial of coverage, claim or authorization.
Rein in the Big Pharmaceutical Companies with the Power of State Wholesaling:
States retain the right to regulate and manage the sale of medications under the U.S. Constitution. In fact, the State of Maine has successfully passed an act giving the state the exclusive power to wholesale medications -- harnessing the State's Bargaining Power to bring down the price of medications. Imagine the Bargaining Power that our much larger State of California could use to bring down the cost of medication for all our citizens.
I will introduce and push through the State Assembly just such a bill, and mandate that California will pass on all savings so that its citizens can fill their prescriptions according to the lowest published schedule of prices available in the Western Hemisphere.
California Medical Corps (Serving underserved areas & the uninsured):
My program includes the creation of a California Medical Corps educated by California Medical Schools. Just as West Point provides a free college education to our next generation of military leaders, the California Medical Corps will provide a free medical education to those enlisting to fight illness and injury for a term of public service following graduation. This would help fill the needs left unmet under current plans. Just providing direct health care for the uninsured will reduce the public's costs for meeting everyday medical needs of the poor in emergency rooms, and help stabilize rising hospital costs.
I will work hard with members of the Legislature to provide a more complete solution to our State's health care crisis, shifting the focus to practical ways that all Californians can access good health care. We can not continue with a system that siphons 1/3 of every health care dollar off to enrich insurance companies, and their executives, as they broker and ration the provision of medical services.
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