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LWV League of Women Voters of California Education Fund

Smart Voter
San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz Counties, CA November 4, 2008 Election
Candidates Answer Questions on the Issues
State Senator; District 11

The questions were prepared by the League of Women Voters of California and asked of all candidates for this office.     See below for questions on Budget Crisis, Education, Water, Health Insurance

Click on a name for candidate information.   See also more information about this contest.

? 1. What does California need to do to address the current budget crisis?

Answer from Blair A. Nathan:

The state government must recognize that it has a spending problem, first and foremost. Spending that increases by over 40% during a span of five years is bound to push the limit of fiscal responsibility. The state government should make tough cuts, as it has done to some extent, while maintaining as much funding as possible for priorities such as education and public safety. The legislature should lead by example with a 10% pay decrease.

The precarious state of the economy should rule out major tax increases, including the the billions in new income taxes that were proposed by legislative Democrats. That said, it is unrealistic to believe that a genuinely balanced budget can be made without any revenue increases whatsoever. Consequently, I would be willing to consider a moderate, temporary sales tax increase, ideally less than the 1 cent hike favored by the governor. Other fees may be necessary as well--for example, surcharges on at-risk properties in order to provide adequate fire protection going forward.

Additionally, though I recognize the attendant shortcomings and practical difficulties in today's financial environment, I support lottery securitization. Coupled with a revamp of California's under-performing lottery, securitization can provide necessary funds to the state while setting the lottery on a robust future footing.

In the end, though, it must be acknowledged that California will not have acceptable budgets until spending is firmly under control and budget discipline is institutionalized. To this end, I support:

  • The existing 2/3 majority requirement for raising taxes and passing budgets
  • A robust "rainy day" fund that accumulates money during high-revenue periods and can only be tapped in low-revenue years
  • Substantial authority for the governor to make necessary mid-year cuts if the state's revenue situation deteriorates
  • Two-year budgeting, which will encourage the state to look farther forward in the budget-making process
  • Limitation of spending to a level commensurate with population growth and inflation

? 2. What should the state's priorities be for K-12 education? For the Community College System?

Answer from Blair A. Nathan:

Education at all levels should be a primary focus of the state government as well as a funding priority. It is heartening to see the state meeting its Prop. 98 commitment, with a $1.5m increase in K-12 education funding over last year's level.

That said, sufficient funding is only part of the answer to ensuring that California's students are taught effectively.

I believe in increased local control for our state's schools. Administrators should be able to spend money from "categorical" funding streams in ways that best meet the needs of their districts. Moreover, they should be free from excessive curricular requirements from Sacramento. Even more reasonable mandates, such as the recent 8th grade Algebra requirement, bypass local discretion and impose a one-size-fits-all solution.

Additionally, accountability should be as present in the public sector as it is in the private sector, and education should not be an exception. In this vein, merit pay would provide the right incentives to instructors throughout our public education system.

? 3. What measures would you support to address California's water needs?

Answer from Blair A. Nathan:

The water issue in California is a complex one, to say the least. The state's water policies must balance urban and rural users, human and environmental needs, and northern and southern locations. This must occur, moreover, against a backdrop of increasing population, below-average snowpack years, and restrictive court orders.

The bottom line, consequently, is this--absent the construction of new infrastructure for collecting, storing, and distributing water, Californians will continue to bicker over a scarce resource. Therefore I support the construction of the reservoirs, desalination facilities, and other structures necessary for meeting our state's future water needs. We must cut through the red and green tape that usually attends water politics in order to make this happen.

It will also require money, of course--in my estimation water infrastructure is one of the few new projects deserving of substantial expenditures in this fiscal environment. The importance of waterworks funding underscores the need for fiscal restraint elsewhere in government, however. Again, I accept the budget cuts proposed by the legislative Republicans (including those proposed by the governor) as a necessary measure.

The state should emphasize spending previously-approved water bond money, where practicable.

? 4. What should the Legislature be doing to address the needs of Californians without health insurance?

Answer from Blair A. Nathan:

The legislature should work to promote market-based solutions improving the accessibility, affordability, and quality of health care.

Access to health insurance can be expanded with reforms to California's insurance regulations. The state should cut down on insurance mandates and regulations in order to bring down the cost of health insurance and give consumers the flexibility to choose plans that are right for them. Furthermore, Californians should be allowed to purchase from out-of-state insurers.

The availability of affordable, no-frills insurance should go hand-in-hand with a prioritization of community clinics and an emphasis on basic, preventative care. More Californians getting basic service at such facilities would mean fewer expensive emergency room visits to be paid for by taxpayers. Additionally, the state should expand the scope of services that nurses can legally provide. This measure would be in line with policy in other states and would serve to keep clinic costs down.

The government should continue to reach out to needy Californians with programs such as Healthy Families and MediCal. As the budget situation improves going forward, an increase in MediCal provider rates would be appropriate. This would encourage more medical practitioners to provide services to MediCal patients, thereby improving patient access to health care.

(On both practical and philosophical grounds, I am strongly opposed to a single-payer health care system. Much can be said about the inevitable rationing and waiting periods under such a regime. Still more can be said about the cumbersome bureaucracy, backward facilities, and unsustainably low provider compensation that would result. Most importantly, the reality is that such a system would be prohibitively expensive--now more than ever.)

Responses to questions asked of each candidate are reproduced as submitted to the League. 

The order of the candidates is random and changes daily. Candidates who did not respond are not listed on this page.

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Created: January 24, 2009 10:43 PST
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