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LWV League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
San Mateo, Santa Clara County, CA June 5, 2012 Election
Smart Voter

Christopher Kent Chiang
Answers Questions

Candidate for
State Senator; District 13


The questions were prepared by the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund and asked of all candidates for this office.
Read the answers from all candidates (who have responded).

Questions & Answers

1. How will you prioritize the budget choices the Legislature must make to align the state’s income and spending?

Our state's first priority should be to identify spending that actually returns even more in state revenue in the future. We need to preserve those programs. It is reckless that our state cuts K-12 and higher education funding when those are our state's best guarantee for growth in future tax revenue.

It will take courage to say "no" to the many other progressive causes that our state government is involved in and that Californians have grown accustomed to having. I will vote to: pass Governor Brown's pension reform without watering it down, maintain cuts to adult welfare, roll back prison construction, and stop the high speed rail funding.

We are the only large oil producing state without an oil severance tax from oil taken from California land. I will fight to change this. I defend Prop 13 (1978), but small fixes are needed. I will fight to align rules for school parcel tax initiatives with the current rules for school bond initiatives. The best spending is local, where residents can observe how their taxes are spent. The current system encourages schools to pursue bonds because of their lower passage requirement, rather than parcel taxes. This has resulted in cash strapped schools to pursue restricted bond spending on less urgent building projects, like solar panels, to get back a fraction in general revenue through energy savings, all at taxpayers' expense. I will work with the Chamber of Commerce to make changes to commercial property tax in a way that would funnel those revenues into funding job training and reducing business taxes and fees. Most importantly, I will fight to make California the nation's most fair tax system. I will go after every loopholes put in place by some political influential group, be it on the left or right. Voters and businesses just want everyone to pay their fair share.

Abiding by Prop 4 (1949) and Prop 111 (1990), we can't tax our way to more children's services; we have to cut spending elsewhere. As a progressive, I will say "no" to most spending projects, so that I can say "yes" to the most important progressive goal: having world leading schools and child services that ensure every child, rich or poor, reaches their full potential in life.

2. What types of changes or reforms, if any, do you think are important to make our state government function more effectively?

We need to reduce the role of special interests, increase transparency in the law making process, and increase civic engagement. All three can be done by legislation alone, rather than constitutional amendment.

There are no disincentives for legislators to raise as much money as they can. In fact legislators are often praised by the media for raising the most campaign funds. It is naive to believe that campaign donations do not skew public policy towards special interests.

To create a disincentive, I would propose a new requirement that any candidate spending over $10,000 must have their top 10 donors and total amount raised listed on the official ballot statement. Both are already reported to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, but most voters do not have the time to request this data.

To combat the increase in special interest spending, I would then propose that the state develop an official state seal that it only authorizes candidates to place on their ads and communications. This can help voters distinguish between information coming from the candidates and those coming from independent groups like special interests and Super PACs. Voters would need to be educated to be highly suspect of any information not bearing this seal.

The state must do a better job being transparent with the legislative process. All committee hearing videos should be posted online. As technology matures we should place auto-transcription of the text of all hearings online in searchable format when it is cost effective to do so. California's legislature's website should lead the nation in easy to access information and interactivity. Compare the information Utah's legislature places online ( to ours. It's unacceptable for California's government to be behind the nation in technology integration, rather we should utilize social media technology to lead the nation in allowing voters and small businesses (that can't afford lobbyists) to virtually participate in government. No bill should be passed without a 24 hour period of public viewing. Most residents would be surprised that drastic changes can be made to a bill and voted on without public notice. Even more people would be shocked that in California, we allow legislators to retroactively change their voting records as long as it didn't impact the final outcome. This practice must end.

The most important reform to our system is in civic engagement. During the last state wide primary, only 24% of eligible voters voted (33% of registered voters voted). In an age where we can do nearly everything instantaneously over the internet, it is unacceptable that we require citizens to register two weeks in advanced of an election to vote. Minnesota, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Wyoming allow voter registration the day of the election. North Dakota stopped requiring voter registration all together and does residency checks on the spot.

A majority of voters already vote by mail. I will fight to make California the first state that gives residents the option to vote online. The first step will be to allow Californians to register to vote and print out their ballot to mail in/drop off, as they do with the current mail in ballots. Eventually, the goal is to give voters the option to register, vote, and electronically sign their ballots. This is more than an issue of convenience; voting online will give voters access to more forms of information on the ballot items.

Our state must invest more resources in state civic education. We give residents more power than anywhere else in the nation in the form of initiatives. This requires us as a society to invest more than anywhere else in the civic knowledge of our people.

3. Fees for public higher education have gone up dramatically and funding has been cut. Is this a priority concern, and if so, what measures would you propose to address it?

College is the most reliable way to increase a person's income. Rise in personal income is a rise in income tax, our largest state revenue source. The state hurts its own financial future by cutting higher education funding.

I propose we restore higher education funding in the form of increased state financial aid: for merit aid for academic scholars regardless of income and for need based aid students. This is a far more effective use of public resources than an across the board tuition cut.

In addition, there are innovative means to lowering costs that have yet to be properly explored. Professors need to be offered training on how to provide more materials electronically to cut down on textbook expenses. College administrators need to reorganize housing so that more students can share a room: 3:1 or 4:1, rather than 2:1, dramatically cutting down on housing costs. K-12 needs reform so colleges are not exhausting scarce resources on remediation.

4. What other major issues do you think the Legislature must address? What are your own priorities?

If we had closed the achievement gap with better-performing nations, GDP in 2010 could have been 9% to 16% higher. The study called our education system the "economic equivalent of a permanent national recession." - McKinsey & Company Study

An educator would be able to tell the legislature that more money will not fix our schools until we improve how schools work and view the needs of children beyond the age frame of 5 to 18 (K-12). It is ineffective policy for us to be willing to invest $8,000+ a year in a child once they are in kindergarten, but refuse that same child support during the ages 1-5, where unequivocally research shows intervention is most successful and cost effective. It is equally foolish for us to invest $100,000 in each child over their thirteen years of public education, only to quit at the last step by denying them access to college.

The vitality of California's economy and democracy depends on this singular focus. Every other public problem we care about stems from our neglect of our children.

Priority number one will be ensuring that effective teacher and principal training is part of the state credentialing process. The state must then identify and recruit the very best in the nation to become our teachers, and then actively select among our teaching force the most talented to become our principals. This will require the state to build a robust teacher and principal database. Every great education system uses its best teachers to train teachers and lead schools.

Responses to questions asked of each candidate are reproduced as submitted to the League.  Candidates' statements are presented as submitted. References to opponents are not permitted.

Read the answers from all candidates (who have responded).

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Created from information supplied by the candidate: April 15, 2012 12:53
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