HOUSING

housingOver the past few years, there has been a rebound in California’s battered housing market, and that rebound has been felt even stronger throughout the 24th Assembly District. Housing continues to be a serious challenge for our counties. As the economy continues to improve in the Silicon Valley, the need to provide all levels of housing continues to grow.

I am especially concerned about our ability to develop enough affordable housing for our communities. Many families, including those who are teachers or public safety officials are increasingly priced out of our communities, and are forced to commute long distances in an effort to find affordable housing.

For many years, I have advocated for an increased role for public and private entities to work together to find solutions to our affordable housing shortages. To that end, I authored AB 532, which provided our housing trusts with new, valuable dollars to continue their core mission – providing funding to non-profit affordable housing developers. Their work has ensured that working families continue to be part of our social fabric and remain in the communities of Assembly District 24.

I will continue to author and support legislation that creates and fosters a robust system for supporting the creation of additional affordable housing in communities throughout California.

TRANSPORTATION

transportationMuch of our state’s infrastructure was built decades ago, when our state had just a fraction of its current population. As a result, our existing infrastructure does not meet our current needs, and our transportation systems are completely inadequate to handle projected future growth.

To prepare for this projected growth with our limited transportation revenues, California must plan in the most cost-effective ways. Reducing commute distances and encouraging the use of transit will ease the impact of population growth on our surface transportation system. We cannot turn to sprawl to inefficiently house our people, we must focus on higher density, in-fill development where public transportation exists or can be built.

We must also commit to directly addressing the aging infrastructure in our roads and other transportation networks, as many of these systems have been underfunded and the dollars for maintenance are not available in the amounts needed.

In our community, thousands of people depend on VTA, SamTrans, and Caltrain every day. As California’s transportation needs continue to outpace reduced state and federal revenues, our state’s infrastructure will increasingly rely on locally generated transportation funds. We are very fortunate that the voters of San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties chose to finance many of our most important transportation needs through countywide revenue measures. Our communities have been more resourceful in addressing our state’s transportation infrastructure and California must follow our example. I have authored transportation bills to help Caltrans be more collaborative and innovative, and provide our local transit agencies with the flexibility they need to deliver transportation projects faster, on-time, and for fewer taxpayer dollars. I am committed to continuing this work going forward.

STATE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

economy_iconThe State of California’s finances have stabilized, but there is much work to be done.

Shortly after I took office in 2010, California faced a total budget shortfall of over $25 billion. Such a massive budget deficit required immediate attention, as the state’s ability to meet its most basic financial obligations was in jeopardy. As a result, we were faced with a terrible dilemma – by making the necessary changes, many of California’s most vulnerable residents would see less assistance, student in public colleges and universities would face greater struggles to remain in school and graduate, and students in our K-12 system would see larger class sizes. Through a combination of significant reductions in spending, additional revenue approved by the voters in 2012, and the improving economy, our budget has turned around.

In just three years, responsible stewardship has turned a deficit of many billions to a surplus that is now the basis for future fiscal solvency. As California emerges from the Great Recession, the lessons of recent budget deficits of the past decade have reinforced my view that we need greater planning to avoid devastating impacts should the state’s finances falter in the future. I believe we have both an opportunity and the responsibility to ensure that the state continues on a fiscally prudent path forward.

With recent substantial increases in revenue for the state, it is imperative that we use these one-time dollars to bolster mechanisms that can soften the impact of future deficits and economic downturns. In December, I joined with other Assemblymembers to support a proposal to establish a rainy day fund. The Governor largely adopted this proposal and has recommended a $2.5 billion reserve for the coming year. The proposal for a new and real rainy day fund would set aside increases in capital gains-related personal income tax, a source of revenue that can vary significantly from year-to-year and which is best suited for one-time uses.

I also believe that it is fiscally prudent to use some of the budget surplus to pay down state debt. In his proposed budget, the Governor recommends paying down nearly $8 billion in obligations to schools, community colleges, and expenses related to previously issued bonds, and I support his commitment to this down payment on our debt.

Pension reform has been a significant part of our fiscal puzzle. The pension reform package that I supported in 2012 made significant changes to how pensions are calculated and how new employees would be supported by them. More work needs to be done, as the state must address significant unfunded liabilities. Significantly, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System still struggles with issues related to its long-term solvency due to decades of underfunding. This is not an issue that can be solved overnight, but I believe that the issue needs our attention now.

I am proud of the role that I have played in restoring the promise of California and its finances, and I will continue to push for common-sense actions that will ensure this solvency for years to come.

EDUCATION

education_iconThe level of investment that California is making toward our education system is improving and I am hopeful that it will continue to increase. Last year, the Legislature passed the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which replaced the previous convoluted funding structure for K-12 Education with a more transparent funding model that addresses the socio-economic disparities among school districts. While LCFF increases the base funding levels for all school districts across the state, the new funding formula also provides additional dollars to school districts with high concentrations of low-income students, English learners, and foster youth. The LCFF promised that no school district would be harmed as a result of this new funding structure. I will work to assure that this promise is kept.

In addition, the Legislature has appropriated $1.25 billion to support the implementation of Common Core State Standards as California moves to a new student assessment system. 2014 marks a positive year for education where there will be modest growth in funding and payment of long-overdue deferral obligations to school districts.

While the state has made investing in education a priority, there is still more that could be done. Our expenditures per pupil still rank near the bottom when compared to the other 49 states. To compete in the global economy, California needs an educated and prepared workforce. As our economy rebounds, the first priority for any new state revenue must continue to be our schools, but spending more is not enough, we must also spend wiser.

I believe that local school boards and local school personnel are best positioned to allocate educational dollars, which will occur under LCFF. Small class sizes, longer school years, and rewarding teacher excellence are all actions that local school boards could take if given the resources. We must retain our most talented teachers, but with up to a third of our teachers possibly retiring in the next decade, we must also attract new professionals.

Pre-school has proven to have a positive impact on future school performance, so it is critical that we expand access to pre-school and early education for all children in California. As a founding San Mateo County First 5 Commissioner, I understand the importance of early childhood development. Last year I successfully authored Assembly Bill 260, which extends San Mateo County’s successful child care pilot program. This pilot has been highly effective in maximizing the efficient use of child care subsidy funds and essential to providing access to vital early care and education programs in our community upon which hundreds of young children and their working families depend.

Just as we need to support early education, we must also make investments in higher education. Our community college system has great potential as an entry to advanced education, but it also has great potential for career technical education in many trades and vocations, and can play a crucial role in reeducating our workforce for an ever-shifting spectrum of jobs in the 21st Century.

We also must invest in our state college and university systems so that tuition is not a barrier to those who seek graduation and advanced degrees. I am a proud supporter of the Middle Class Scholarship, a new program that the Legislature passed in last year’s budget which provides undergraduate students with family incomes up to $150,000 a scholarship to attend UC or CSU campuses beginning in the 2014-15 academic year. California’s competitiveness depends on helping our children succeed and making college more affordable is a step in the right direction.

CAP & TRADE

economy_iconCalifornia’s landmark greenhouse gas emissions reduction legislation, AB 32 from 2006, identified an emissions cap-and-trade program as one of the strategies California is employing to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that cause climate change. Cap-and-trade is helping put California on the path to meet its goal of reducing GHG emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) had previously been tasked with devising the framework for such a plan, and as the former Chair of the Budget Subcommittee that oversees the budget for CARB, I had direct input and oversight into how is the cap-and-trade plan was devised and ultimately implemented.

The initial rounds of auction revenues of carbon credits issued by the cap-and-trade program have brought close to $1 billion per year in revenue. Future revenues could potentially lead to expenditures on energy and water-use efficiency programs, alternative fuel programs, and investments in renewable energy projects. I continue to engage on implementation of the cap-and-trade program, most recently authoring legislation that would target projects in local government for potential expenditure. All proceeds will be used to reduce California’s overall carbon emissions.

SEA LEVEL RISE

sealevelCalifornia faces a unique environmental challenge brought about by climate change and the related consequence of sea level rise. As a state with a long and beautiful coastline we need to fully study how sea level rise will impact our coastal communities and industries. There are places where sea level rise will negatively impact built infrastructure, threatening bridges, ports, and homes. We need to better understand how all of this will impact California, and plan accordingly.

The San Mateo coastline continues to be a prime tourist and recreation center for many Californians. Lands surrounding San Francisco Bay are being restored and reconnected to surrounding communities. However, all the work we have done to enhance and protect these resources is threatened by continued climate change and increased sea level rise, and without a proactive approach to combating these changes, these precious assets may be permanently altered.

In every decision, thought ought to be given to potential environmental consequences.

OUR ENVIRONMENT

earth_icon

I fully believe in the philosophy that the Earth is not left to us by our parents, but rather lent to us by our children. We truly are the stewards of this time and place, and unfortunately we have often neglected the most permanent of our legacies.

Stewardship requires that we protect our air and water, that we protect our soils and lands from erosion and contamination, and that we preserve what limited natural resources we have left. It also requires that we foster growth and development utilizing sustainable practices.

California has long been a global leader on issues of clean air and clean water. Economic and fiscal crises cannot be used as an excuse to retreat from this leadership; if anything it is a reminder of the consequences of mismanagement.

In my time in the Legislature, I have focused my work on two important environmental issue areas – land/water conservation and solid waste reduction and recycling. I have carried a variety of bills, which have been focused on preservation of conservation lands, and have assisted local organizations like the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) as well as the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.

San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties are microcosms of these challenges. We have a rich heritage of setting aside countless acres of open space that have become the jewels of our communities.

My work in the recycling arena has decreased statewide recycling fraud, and also provides major incentives to recycle more plastic bottles here in California into new and better products, all while decreasing the number that are shipped overseas. The results have led to the creation of much-needed green jobs here in California.

WATER

waterCalifornia desperately needs a comprehensive water policy. Our many needs for water: domestic, agricultural, industrial, recreational, and resource protection must all be balanced.

Much of our state’s water supply infrastructure was built decades ago, from plans first drafted in the 1950′s – when our state had roughly one-third of its current population. However, no one could have predicted the actual growth of our state, and certainly no one has adequately planned this system for the projected future growth.

The majority of the water in our state is in the north and the majority of the need for that water is in the central and southern parts of the state; however, we can no longer look to mountains of the north to meet our growing needs. The Sierras have long served as our state’s reservoir, but climate change is shrinking the Sierra snowpack and increasingly, more of California’s water supply will fall as rain in the future.

With most of 24th Assembly District’s water coming from the Hetch Hetchy system and the Delta, it is critically important that we improve how we capture, store, and transmit the rain that falls on California. While technical solutions could be engineered to move this water, any solution must consider the consequences to the entire ecosystem.

Conservation must be a key element of any water policy. We will also need to aggressively explore water recycling, groundwater recharge, and even desalination. Newer technologies make desalination more cost-effective, but major environmental issues must still be resolved if this technology is to be used to meet the state’s unquenchable thirst.

There remains an $11 billion water bond, which is scheduled to appear on the November 2014 ballot. That bond is simply too expensive and filled with special interest projects. Given current drought conditions and on-going water infrastructure needs I believe that we need a smaller water bond. I am a member of the Assembly Working Group for a 2014 Water Bond and in this role will work to see that the interests of our region are reflected in any final proposal.

A Good Start, But More Work Ahead

To return California to its glory, we must continue to reform how the state is governed and how services are provided to Californians. I sought election to the Assembly four years ago not out of a longstanding desire to serve in the Legislature, but rather because I felt that there was a need to transform the way California and its government functions. I continue to believe that the first priority must be making sure that California government works in the best interest of Californians.

We are at a time when significant change is possible because the need for change has become too great for convention to resist. Key leaders in business, non-profit organizations, and government at both the state and local level, have united in a call for governance reform and, there has been measurable progress. I am working with those inside and outside of the Capitol who are championing and fighting for change.

Three years ago, California faced a massive deficit and “a wall of debt.” Since that time, the voters of California approved solutions to some of this dysfunction, authorizing state budget passage by a majority vote and temporary increases in taxes. As a result, I have been able to vote for three on-time budgets that reduced our deficit and allowed for targeted reinvestment in education and services to those in our community most in need. Furthermore, when I chaired the Budget Subcommittee on Resources and Transportation, I developed a new budgeting format that brought greater transparency to the process and championed outcome-based budgeting to monitor tax expenditures.

Moreover, we have begun realigning government functions from the state to the local level, including many public safety functions. More work remains to ensure that this realignment works and keeps our communities safe. I expect that more services will be devolved to local government in the coming years.

But more work remains. Therefore, I support:

  • Continuing to increase the role and responsibility of local governments – cities, school districts, and counties, which are closer to the communities they serve. As we realign greater responsibility to local governments, we must also provide local government with the tools to successfully serve the needs of Californians.
  • Continuing efforts to stabilize our fiscal house, including the adoption of outcome-based budgeting and an enforceable reserve policy so that the state has a “savings account” in the form of a rainy day fund.
  • Provide greater transparency in elections, and in particular greater disclosure of who is funding advertisements, mailers, and other political messaging.
  • Reforming the initiative process to increase transparency, prevent its use as a tool of those seeking to end-run the public legislative process, and requiring that measures clearly identify a source of funding or the elimination of some other state expenditure.

We cannot waste this opportunity for reform.