Fran Pavley is a busy woman these days. Between speaking engagements at UCLA, the front-runner for State Senator, District 18 (Santa Monica) gave a sober assessment of the state of our fair state, as well as a glimpse of her agenda should her substantial lead over her two opponents hold true on November 4.
Ms. Pavley began by addressing the California budget crisis, and indicated that, given the current state deficit and general downturn in the national economy, tough political choices loomed for legislators in Sacramento. “We can’t print money like the federal government,” she half-joked, her point being that many important state services, such as mental health, education, and environmental protection are on the chopping block due to a lack of necessary tax revenue. In Pavley’s assessment, no clear strategy is currently in place to deal with this potential crisis. “Do we rely solely on cuts, or a combination of cuts, increased tax revenues and increased [government] efficiency?” she posits. She also points out that the fastest growing cost to the California budget is the incarceration of prisoners in the state penal system, a fact that opens up many a can of fiscal and social worms.
Pavley also cites issues such as preventive health care, which in the long run could save taxpayers billions of dollars, but since there is currently no “up-front money” to fund many of these programs, in the foreseeable future Californians may find themselves shelling out even more money for health services. It’s difficult to balance long- and short-term thinking when the state is hemorrhaging money.
Pavley is also concerned about the ongoing partisan budget gridlock, especially given the fact that California is one of only three states that require a two-thirds vote in the state legislature to pass the budget. “Sacramento is increasingly challenged due to budget problems…[but] I’m looking forward to working with Darryl Steinberg, the new Senate President Pro Tem, on the budget stalemate,” she said.
Pavley is candid about the state’s need to broaden its revenue sources. She believes that California currently relies disproportionately on upper income earners, thus, when those incomes decrease, tax revenues go down and essential programs are affected. Legislators are currently looking at numerous options, including taking a percentage of property taxes (the state government currently gets no property tax revenue), lowering sales taxes and then applying a sales tax to certain service–oriented businesses. Pavley adds that legislators are not looking to raise taxes on the middle class, but the problem is “We have a tax structure that is based on a 20th Century model.” Pavley also sees the need to reform elements of the California tax code, specifically, repealing certain tax breaks and closing unfair loopholes.
On other issues, Pavley is sure to continue the powerful environmental work she’s done during her three terms in the California State Assembly. Her landmark legislation on global warming, including the “Clean Car Bill” (AB 1493), and “The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006” (AB 32), have become legislative models for other 11 other states and countries, such as Canada. As a result of AB 32, there will be a cap on greenhouse gas emissions emitted in California.
(It is worth noting that Pavley’s environmental work has been recognized by many entities, including being selected as one of Scientific American’s Top Technology Leaders in Transportation, and receiving the 2006 California League of Conservation Voters “Global Warming Leadership Award” along with former Vice President Al Gore.)
If elected, Pavley will be filling the seat formerly held by Sheila Kuehl, whom Pavley counts as a great political influence and mentor. “Sheila is one of the most effective legislators this state has ever had, from environmental policies to civil rights to health care… she’s been an outstanding role model for me,” Pavley said. They worked together closely on numerous environmental initiatives, and Pavley plans to continue that work.
According to Pavley, Kuehl’s signature issue is health care, and Pavley wants to serve on the Health Care Committee, although she hastens to add that she lacks Kuehl’s breadth of knowledge on the subject. Given the two lawmakers’ close relationship, Pavley will continue to call upon Kuehl’s vast experience; should she win, Pavley’s constituents can likely expect the same degree of activism and political courage her predecessor has shown in District 18’s State Senate seat.