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LWV League of Women Voters of California Education Fund

Smart Voter
San Francisco County, CA November 4, 2008 Election
Candidates Answer Questions on the Issues
Member of the State Assembly; District 13

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 Harmeet K. Dhillon:

I firmly believe in limiting the size and intrusiveness of government so people are free to work, innovate, and enjoy the blessings of liberty. Fiscal restraint, rather than ever-increasing tax-and-spend policies advocated by an entrenched bureaucracy and cynical politicians, will be my approach. Gimmicks and bond measures provide short-term fixes that mortgage our state's future and ultimately tax and burden the economy even further. We must implement a pay-as-we-go attitude in Sacramento.

Pension reform in the public sector must be reconciled so that our hard-working civil servants receive reasonable benefits commensurate with the private sector. Government must fully disclose all long-term liabilities, including pension and retiree healthcare benefit costs, at all levels of government. Long-term infrastructure needs must be properly budgeted each year to avoid crisis situations and makeshift fiscal solutions.

Answer from Tom Ammiano:

I believe California's budget should invest in services and infrastructure for the future. I oppose arbitrary budget cuts and believe that all options, including increased fees and taxes, must be on the table.

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

Answer from Harmeet K. Dhillon:

Empowering the next generation of Californians with deep and practical education is critical to our success as both an economy, and a society. Education is our society's great equalizer and a path to economic independence. Education should foster developing lifelong learners who are prepared to participate creatively and productively in American society.

California, our great state, must be a world leader in public schools, libraries and choice schools. All California children should have access to quality education, whether they matriculate to higher education or are motivated and inspired by vocational and career technical education opportunities. All students must learn to read, write, perform basic mathematics in English and to know and appreciate the history of the state of California and the United States.

California parents should be empowered to provide the best education for their children through options such as school choice, voucher, home schooling, licensing of independent and charter schools, and the closure or takeover of failing public schools. Local communities should control the schools to implement curriculum, determine budgets and select the best staff and teachers free from external interference. Teachers should be paid salaries commensurate with their experience and their performance. We must break the stranglehold on the schools by teacher's unions more determined to protect tenure and inefficient administration than to provide quality education and accountability to our children.

Answer from Tom Ammiano:

My first priority for California's public schools is to make sure that Proposition 98 funding levels are protected. Our children's future should not be sacrificed because of the Governor's bad fiscal and political choices. Beyond defending Proposition 98, I will work with legislative allies and the education community to return California to its rightful place as the nation's premier education state. This will take a fresh look at raising revenues and finding the most effective way of using them to promote first class education for all our students.

We need to commit state resources and our best educational minds in the fight to bridge the achievement gap. Too many of our poor, African-American and Latino students are cheated-out of a real equal opportunity to succeed in school and thus succeed in life. We must do all we can to recruit new teachers and retain outstanding veteran teachers. We must create exciting learning communities in our poorest neighborhoods so that teachers will want to teach there, knowing there will be the support necessary "to make a difference" in students' lives. This will take an enormous effort since California faces a teaching shortage of ten's of thousands as the baby boomers retire. We need to create compensation and benefits so that teachers can afford to live in places like San Francisco. And, we need to make schools, in all of our communities: suburban, rural and urban and poor and middle-class, attractive places to tech by providing professional development that supports new teachers and allows veteran teachers to take leadership positions in the schools, alongside well-trained administrators.

Finally, our schools must once again become centers of community life. Recreation and after-school activities must be available not only to students, but also family members. Young families, especially in poor communities, should find counseling and parenting assistance at school sites. Communities at the core of the "achievement gap" must have schools that not only provide outstanding educational programs, but also programs that will promote family involvement in the schools.

Community colleges are a great example of the American Dream. They exist so all students can choose an academic or high-skilled career path after high school. More San Francisco students attend City College, by far, than any other post-high school program. Unfortunately, the Community College system in California, like the k-12 system, is grossly under funded for the enormous task of providing college level academics and outstanding adult and career path training for those students in or entering the job market. When funds are cut, programs are cut, student fees are increased and student choices are narrowed and often student dreams are deferred to a day that may never arrive. We need a mechanism that guarantees consistent adequate funding for the Community College system.

The Community College system must receive enough funding so faculty can become full-time members of their college community. At present, too many of our community college faculty work part-time and this has to change. Every community college needs a stable, well-compensated faculty with health care and retirement security. That is, faculty committed to their local community college and its students and respected and rewarded for making that choice.

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

Answer from Tom Ammiano:

To begin with, we should have a basic agreement about our priorities. Mine are:

-the provision of clean drinking water to all residents of the state

-ensuring sufficient water supplies to sustain and restore California's natural environment

-providing sufficient water to sustain California's communities and its economy.

I understand that climate change is going to fundamentally change our current water system by gradually eliminating the Sierra snowpack. We need to take this opportunity to really look at what water we need, and where it comes from. We should also ensure that in our concern about water supply, we continue to work to improve the state's water quality. After all, we have been able to grow our population and our economy over the past few decades without increasing water demand. But in that same amount of time, the quality of our water supplies has been degraded, mostly through human contamination.

I know that there is ongoing discussion at the state level of a water bond to address this crisis. However, I think there are many steps we could and should take before adding to our state's bonded indebtedness. These include:

- Ensuring that permit fees charged by agencies such as the Water Boards and the Department of Fish and Game actually cover the costs of enforcement. This would allow these agencies to beef up their enforcement activities in other areas, and among other things, more aggressively pursue polluters for repayment of the costs of cleanup.

- Require that the Water Boards fully enforce the Porter-Cologne Act, particularly in regards to protecting groundwater quality.

- Overhauling California's system of water rights. I understand that this is very difficult to do politically, but the current system creates huge inequalities in our water allocation system, and the oversubscription of water rights (I believe they total several times the available water) has helped exacerbate the environmental problems.

- Developing a sustainable funding stream. We rely too much on bonds to address the state's water needs. This is an expensive alternative, and the cost is borne by the most vulnerable people in the state. As a start, we need to assess fees on those water agencies that divert water from the Delta and its upstream tributaries in order to fund needed ecosystem restoration and source protection activities in the Delta and its watershed.

- Addressing the needs of communities that lack safe drinking water. While the big water agencies argue in Sacramento, small water systems cannot provide clean drinking water to their communities. I support funding priorities that put low-income communities that lack safe drinking water first.

- Enact legislation that sets clear goals for both agricultural and urban conservation. The Pacific Institute released a report this week on the opportunities for water conservation in the agriculture industry, and the State Water Plan has identified significant urban water savings. I'm unhappy that two major conservation bills, AB2175 and AB 2153, didn't make it out of the Legislature this year, and will support these and similar bills in the Assembly.

- Supporting alternative supplies. Water recycling, stormwater capture, and graywater reuse all offer opportunities to augment our water supplies and reduce the problem of polluted runoff into our water bodies. I will support incentives and code changes as needed to foster these supply options.

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

Answer from Harmeet K. Dhillon:

Responsible market-based health care reform extending the fundamental human need for health care is vital to California's economy and future. A universal, single-payer health care system is a guaranteed path to disaster, ensuring a falling standard of health care, rationing, delays, and inefficiency that characterizes all government monopolies.

California health care providers and insurers must adhere to fundamental principals of fairness, such as offering coverage without regard to pre-existing conditions and charging similar rates for the same procedures regardless of insurance coverage.Small businesses should be encouraged to provide health insurance to their employees through the judicious use of tax credits and self-insurance pools. Californians must have multiple choices for health insurance and health care. The burden for providing access to quality health care must fall on all Californians, not just doctors, hospitals, and businesses.

I support tax credits to individuals as well as private employers, which encourage Californians to obtain and maintain health coverage utilizing free-market approaches.

Answer from Tom Ammiano:

I am proud of authoring and passing San Francisco's Health Care Access legislation which makes San Francisco the first City in the nation to provide universal health care. However, I believe single payer health care reform is essential for California to provide universal health care access.

Because most lower wage earners are women and people of color, providing access to healthcare is critical to their well being and that of their families.

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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