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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?
In March 2004, California was on the brink of financial disaster before voters bought a little time by authorizing the financing of a portion of the State's debt through bonds. However, a bond is borrowed money, not unlike credit card debt. We just financed a scary amount that is going to haunt us (and our children and grandchildren) for a long time to come. If we simply keep passing on our debt to future generations, those generations will not be able to choose and afford their own government programs and services.
During the March election, Californian's were warned that the remaining portion of the debt was to be addressed through "painful" budget cuts. In August 2004, the Governor announced a spending cut plan to help meet that goal. I support the Governor's plan as a necessary belt-tightening measure of our times, and I strongly believe that additional cuts beyond the Governor's plan may be necessary further down the road.
2. What should the state's priorities be for K-12 education? For the Community College System?
The State is suffering through a budget crisis. There is little that the State can do for schools monetarily until the deficit and debt is behind us.
We currently cannot pay our daily expenses for the government programs we have in place now. We are simply passing on our debt to future generations. Those generations will not be able to choose and afford their own government programs and services.
3. What measures would you support to address California's water needs?
I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area during the drought of the 1970s. I remember the painstaking conservation efforts. I also recall that at least one Bay Area bridge had a lane closed during the drought in order to accomodate a temporary aqueduct pipeline.
What did Californian's learn from the 1970's drought? Apparently, nothing at all. Over the past 30 years, development has exploded throughout the State while NO new aqueduct systems or other large-scale water development projects have been constructed.
As a geologist, allow me to let you in on a dirty little secret: there will be another drought. And next time, with our increased water demands, it is going to be much worse. Let's just hope it won't happen until long after the budget crisis is well behind us, because there is nothing that the State government can do to prepare for it now. We overspent ourselves silly and, most shamefully, we do not have anything to show for it -- except for the typical broken schools and broken roads that we hear about each election cycle.
In the event of a water emergency, public water providers will likely have to pay farmers of seasonal, rotatable crops a reasonable price for their water (just as it was done in many areas during the 1970's drought).
4. What should the Legislature be doing to address the needs of Californians without health insurance?
I know that affordable health care is a big issue with many voters in our District. However, let me start my answer by saying that I am against socialized medicine. I strongly believe that it is an individual's responsibility to provide for his/her own health care, just as it is an individual's responsibility to purchase his/her own food, clothing and shelter. Now, before some of you roll your eyes and close your computer's browser, let me explain my position a little further as I have some interesting insight into the matter and, perhaps, a solution worth attempting during these lean economic times.
I lived in Canada for nine years. My parents still live there. As many of you know, all of the Canadian provinces have single-payer health care systems. That is, the government pays for everyone's health care needs. Unfortunately, simply shifting the burden of paying for a valuable service away from individuals to the government does nothing to reduce health care costs. Somebody still has to pay for it. Doctors do not work for free, nor should they (considering the amount of college and continuing education required, let alone the stress levels associated with the job).
So how are they paying for all of these "free" services in Canada? Canada is a good example since it has a population roughly the size of California. Perhaps the answer is: Canadians are not really doing a good job paying for their services. Canada has a national debt that is actually greater than the entire United States debt, on a per capita basis. But unlike the United States, Canada has no significant military to spend money on. Canada simply spends money on its public assistance programs. Even more interesting, the Canadian debt has skyrocketed in spite of both an income tax and a 15% national sales tax (in some provinces, the provincial sales tax and national sales tax combined may exceed 22% for normal everyday purchases). And worse, Canada has been severely rationing health care services to cut costs. Important procedures (such as heart surgery or diagnostic tests), which we can receive within days in the United States, typically take months to schedule in Canada. Is this the direction California really wants to go?
Having the government take control over such a large portion of the free market is not the solution many people in California think it is. And please realize that the political process is a double-edged sword. Health care choices are too important to put in the hands of squabbling politicians.
That said, as both an employer and a self-employed individual, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to find access to health insurance, let alone afford it. Many insurance companies will not do business with people in our District because they reside outside the insurance companies' "market area". Some will not consider a person with pre-existing conditions, even if the person offers to pay more for the insurance plan.
Ultimately, I would like to pursue ways to relieve regulations in the medical industry that would directly result in reduced insurance premiums and a greater selection in health plans that people can afford. I would like to see a California in which its citizens can afford to live independently without public assistance.
Meantime, I want to make it clear that suddenly eliminating existing public assistance programs that people have come to rely on would not be a viable option until reasonable market alternatives are in place.
BUT PLEASE REALIZE that since we presently have a 4 to 7 billion dollar deficit and a huge debt to pay, do not expect there to be any money available to create or expand government programs during the two year term of this political office, regardless of who is elected.
If, after reading this, your goal is still universal health care, then ask yourself if there would be a better chance of creating such a system once California's finances are "back in the black". If so, then someone needs to do the dirty work of fixing the budget crisis now. I have the genuine motivation to do the job without all of the strings of having my campaign or my political party owing political favors to special interest groups and corporations. Two years from now, when the deficit is gone and the debt is being reduced, I would not take it personally if voters decide to replace me with someone more interested in spending money again.
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