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San Mateo, Santa Clara County, CA June 8, 2010 Election
Smart Voter

Budget Reform

By Yoriko Kishimoto

Candidate for Member of the State Assembly; District 21; Democratic Party

This information is provided by the candidate
I am known for reading every page of the budget and looking creatively and critically at both the expenditure and revenue side. Structurally, there is much to fix, beginning with the 2/3rd threshold.
Budget Reform

Sacramento lawmakers recently closed a record $60 billion budget deficit by gutting some of our state's most vital services. Here on the Peninsula, these cuts are having a very real impact on residents young and old alike. K-12 class funding is being heavily reduced. Adult education courses for seniors may be eliminated. Students are being turned away from our community colleges. Transit fares are increasing while bus and light rail services are being cut.

It is clear, though, that these and other cuts alone cannot be the only solution to our structural budget deficit. Just three months after these cuts were enacted, the state experienced a $2.1 billion drop in tax collections. And raiding local county and municipal budgets to make up Sacramento's shortfalls leads to less police on our streets, overworked hospital workers and crumbling roads. What is needed is fundamental structural reform to fix the budget process and end the cycle of never-ending fiscal insolvency.

As an Assemblymember, Yoriko will protect vital Peninsula services and work toward a balanced budget by advocating not for additional cuts, but for the elimination of the archaic 2/3 majority vote for budget approval. She will also work to raise revenue by closing lucrative corporate loopholes and by supporting a constitutional convention to explore and implement the changes necessary to bring our state budget under control.

Reducing Wasteful Spending

As the former Chair of the Palo Alto City Council Finance Committee, Yoriko fought to control spending. In 2008, Yoriko was the lone vote against increasing the city's annual pension obligations by nearly $5 million. Her MBA background helps her understand the budget, do the homework, ask the hard questions and to dive into the data. She is a strong supporter of Palo Alto's award-winning Service Efforts and Accomplishments (SEA) report which provides excellent data about the costs, quality, quantity and timeliness of City services. It includes a variety of comparisons to other cities, and the results of a citizen survey. "Our goal is to provide the City Council, staff, and the public with an independent, impartial assessment of past performance to strengthen public accountability, improve government efficiency and effectiveness, and support future decision-making."

Economic development: Green and Sustainable

A healthy and stable economy is the basis of a sound budget. Yoriko believes in a robust innovation-based economy, as Mayor and councilwoman, and worked to promote the downtown and research park districts as well as neighborhood centers. Initiatives such as Destination Palo Alto and hosting the Amgen Tour of California Prologue built partnerships and brought in visitors and revenues. In Sacramento, Yoriko will work to provide universal broadband and improve education as the infrastructure for our knowledge-based economy and position California as the global foundry for green jobs.

Balanced Budgeting

In her eight years serving the city of Palo Alto as councilmember and mayor, Yoriko worked with her colleagues to build the consensus necessary to pass seven consecutive balanced budgets through economic cycles. User fees and impact fees helped to diversify revenues and larger rainy-day reserves helped to cushion downturns. And I saw firsthand what Sacramento's policies of raiding county and municipal budgets had on Palo Alto.

Reform through Technology and Innovation

Together with community leaders, Yoriko instituted Palo Alto: Open City Hall, a new online forum where community members are encouraged to exchange their thoughts, debate issues and share ideas with city officials and one another, a service that costs the city only $200 per month. Yoriko was also instrumental in keeping Palo Alto's branch libraries open by pushing for the automation of book check-outs, thus freeing up valuable staff time and improving service. At Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), Yoriko has been a strong and consistent advocate for real-time transit information and web-based services.

Two-Year Budget

Yoriko supports a two-year budget cycle, the financial system currently in use in Palo Alto. This allows legislators to focus on policy-making one year, with more time to craft the right oversight and policy goals, and to review the performance of the state in delivering services in alternate years. With more time for thorough performance-based budget reviews, we should have greater accountability and transparency, and the opportunity to push for more systemic reform of how we use our resources to serve the public good. As your Assemblywoman in Sacramento, she will maximize the authority of the state legislature to set broad policy goals, craft good legislation and carefully review implementation.

Sensible Budget Reform

The 2/3rds threshold to pass budgets and obtain new revenues is not a "supermajority" but rule by a minority. Neither the majority nor minority currently has the ability to move California forward. Our state faces disaster because of this stalemate. Other states encourage adoption by 2/3rds if possible, but if consensus cannot be reached in a short timeframe, the threshold drops. We should adopt this model to provide for California's communities and families in a timely manner.

Yoriko on Budget Reform:

As Mayor of Palo Alto and Chair of the Finance Committee, I have seen what budget cuts due to local schools, hospitals, roads, social services + and most importantly, to local families. Every dollar cut to balance the budget takes away from our communities and from our own future. Budget cuts are a short-term fix that does not address the issue of providing for more revenue. And as a woman of color who came to the United States speaking no English, I am conscious of the fact that these cuts have a disparate impact on the poor and on underrepresented groups.

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