Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson believes there are two keys to a healthy economy: education and infrastructure.
“If you develop both of those, businesses will come,” Jackson said.
Jackson served three terms as the representative of the 35th Assembly District, from 1998 to 2004.
She is running for the 19th Senate District, which covers most of Santa Barbara County except Santa Maria, much of east and west Ventura County except Ventura, and parts of Los Angeles County.
If elected, Jackson would deal a blow to the GOP in areas that have traditionally been Republican strongholds. A Jackson victory would also move Democrats, who hold 25 of 40 Senate seats, nearer to a veto-proof two-thirds majority of 27 seats.
Jackson said the rail line connecting the Tri-Counties could be an important economic driver by moving workers along the Highway 101 corridor, especially between Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
While the state’s power to make that a reality is limited because the tracks are federally regulated, Jackson said there’s a role for state lawmakers to play.
“We need to put some pressure on the feds to create incentives for Union Pacific to want to do passenger rail,” Jackson said. “[Union Pacific has] no interest in passenger rail because, financially, it makes no sense to them.”
Jackson calls the state’s higher education system “the farm team for the big leagues” and said state schools are vital to creating a workforce for the “high-performing, low-environmental impact businesses” she said the region needs. She said she would work to increase funding to tri-county universities.
At elementary and secondary levels, Jackson said the rules and regulations for schools should be simplified and that districts should receive more leeway in deciding which state mandates to focus on.
Jackson said she wants to make it easier for skilled professionals who want to teach but are not certified educators to become teachers, “particularly in fields like math or science.”
“They’re not able to do it because there are too many bells and whistles and hoops to jump though,” Jackson said. “I think that’s a big, big mistake,” she said, adding that some amount of training still would be necessary.
On public safety, Jackson supports after-school programs aimed at keeping young people out of state jails and prisons.
“We need to invest more at the front end to basically turn off this tap,” Jackson said. “We’ve got a tap of kids flowing into the criminal justice system.”
To ease budget fiascoes such as this year’s, Jackson advocates spending limits, a fiscal reserve and multi-year budgets, among other proposals. As an assemblywoman, she broke ranks with her party to vote against the 2003-04 budget.
“We’re now spending $5 billion a year here in California to service our debt – that’s just wrong,” Jackson said. “The notion of having debt is just anathema to being able to advance.”
To pay for her education proposals, Jackson said she would revisit or repeal many tax breaks, among them credits for business vehicles and the so-called “yacht tax loophole” that lets owners of boats and airplanes keep vehicles in another state for a certain period of time to avoid California taxes.
However, Jackson said she would also be willing to revisit spending programs and scrap them if they’re no longer effective or relevant.
“Both on the revenue and the expenditure side, we need to put these things back on the table,” Jackson said.
In reshaping a business vehicle tax, Jackson said she doesn’t intend to hinder small-business owners, who she said “aren’t the problem.”
“If mom and pop want to go out and deliver their goods, I suspect they can do it just as well with a $30,000 vehicle as a $100,000 vehicle,” Jackson said. “If a mom-and-pop store can go out and get a $100,000 vehicle instead of a $30,000 vehicle, they don’t need a tax break.”
On energy policy, Jackson opposes offshore oil drilling and has supported setting aside money in the state budget to entice renewable energy companies to do business in the state.
She also supports requiring 30 percent of the state’s energy come from renewable sources by 2020, though she has not proposed details on how that would occur.
Citing the high number of start-up companies in the state, Jackson said she is not persuaded by arguments that California’s cost of doing business is too high. She concedes that the state is costly, “but so are Massachusetts and New York and other high-performing states,” she said.
“Maybe chicken farms can be in Arkansas,” Jackson said. “Maybe we don’t need them here in California.”