Election 2014

4 questions for Katcho Achadjian and Heidi Harmon, Assembly candidates

newsroom@thetribunenews.comApril 4, 2014 

Katcho Achadjian and Heidi Harmon, candidates for the 35th District State Assembly seat.

JOE JOHNSTON — jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

State Assembly, 35th District

Term: 2 Years • Salary: $95,291

The Tribune asked Katcho Achadjian and Heidi Harmon, candidates in the 35th District California Assembly race, to answer each of these four questions in 200 words or less.

KATCHO ACHADJIAN

Katcho Achadjian, 62, is a state Assemblyman and small business owner. He has an associate of arts degree from Cuesta College and a bachelor’s in business administration from Cal Poly. He and his wife, Araxie, have two children.

If elected, what single piece of legislation would you most like to see passed in your first term?

I would like to see legislation pass that would cut down the burdensome regulations that are driving small businesses out of the state. Small businesses are the backbone of California’s economy. California is the eighth-largest economy in the world, but we must realize that being one of the most unfriendly places for business has an impact across the board. I have seen firsthand the troubling effects some of the laws passed in Sacramento have on small businesses in our community. I will continue to fight for these businesses, which will create more jobs in return. As an owner of a small business for over 35 years, I realize that every law that comes out of Sacramento has the potential to cause dire consequences for small businesses. I would also like to see legislation pass that would address the long term water needs of our state. The need to have a safe and reliable drinking water supply is essential to the entire state. We must find the balance for agricultural and residential water needs.

After several years of painful cuts, California now has a surplus, which Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed go to a rainy day fund. What do you think should be done with rising revenues?

I agree with Gov. Brown that this is not the time to drastically increase spending. As California’s economy is turning the corner we should learn from our past mistakes. We should use the surplus towards paying down debt and creating a strong reserve fund so that if revenues drop, we will not have to face drastic cuts in the future. We should also put money into paying off our wall of debt. We have over $218 billion in unfunded liabilities. While on the surface it appears we have a budget surplus, these liabilities paint a different picture on our budget outlook. I support a true rainy day fund so that we can lessen the severity of the crisis the next time we face a budget deficit. There are proposals that have been thrown around in Sacramento which allow for the Legislature to dip into the fund at any time they wish. I support a true rainy day fund so that we can avoid the next time we have a budget deficit. If we are going to spend the money, we should put it towards strengthening existing programs rather than creating new program cost pressures.

Do you think the Paso Robles groundwater basin should be managed and how would that best be accomplished?

As a former county supervisor, I came to Sacramento to empower local governments which make the best decisions for their residents. The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors’ recent decision was another sign of local government acting to solve the local issue of groundwater management. If the locals do not create a solution for the basin, my fear is that the State Water Board will come in to manage the basin or we will face a lengthy and costly fight in the courts over who gets water rights. I remain committed to taking direction from the Board of Supervisors, as they heard the direct concerns from county residents over the course of two lengthy public hearings. Now we are waiting for the Legislature’s legal counsel to give their written opinion on any potential legal obstacles. Even though it appears to have its challenges, I remain committed to working with local elected officials, business owners, and residents to find a long-lasting solution to this very important issue.

During the recession, education faced steep cutbacks. Proposition 30 is funneling more money to schools, but is it enough? What’s your position on education funding?

Proposition 30 stopped the bleeding for the education system while we faced a $26 billion budget deficit, but I was disappointed that some of the money was taken away from education and put into the general fund. The proponents behind Proposition 30 promised this money to education, but they failed to live up to that promise. I do not think that Proposition 30 was enough for our schools. I believe there should be additional funding for education, but that we should empower the locals to decide where the additional money should go. Also, the better our state performs financially, the more revenues will be generated towards the Proposition 98 guarantee to send additional funding to our education system. I want to see students succeed. They are our future and our responsibility. We need to focus on raising the national ranking of California schools and increase per-pupil funding. We need to ensure that our students receive a world-class education.

HEIDI HARMON

Heidi Harmon, 44, teaches climate education in the community and works with young children including leading a weekly music program; she is formerly a preschool teacher at Old Mission School. She has a degree in liberal studies from Cal Poly, with a minor in history. She has a fiance, Larry Brooks, and three children.

If elected, what single piece of legislation would you most like to see passed in your first term?

The single piece of legislation that I would support is one that puts a real price on carbon at the source. Climate change is the issue of our day and a predictably increasing carbon price will send a clear market signal which will free businesses and entrepreneurs to invest in clean energy solutions the world is demanding. California has always been a leader on the environment and we need to enhance our coast's sustainability policies that reflect this commitment. California has everything we need to move towards a truly energy independent future with sustainable green energies. All we need now is the political will. The sooner that decision makers at all levels of society come to grips with the reality of where the climate is heading, the sooner we will be able to control, limit, and manage the risks of a dangerously warming world.

After several years of painful cuts, California now has a surplus, which Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed go to a rainy day fund. What do you think should be done with rising revenues?

California has a volatile tax base which requires that we keep a rainy day fund that can be counted on in more challenging economic times. After this fund is established we need to work toward solutions on the issues that challenge Californians the most. Resolving pension shortfalls, providing a pathway to lead our public education system out of 49th place in the nation, and funding the infrastructure projects we need.

Do you think the Paso Robles groundwater basin should be managed and how best would that be accomplished?

When we have limited common resources we will always face challenges to finding equitable ways to share them. Due to the many divergent stakeholders, the Paso Robles groundwater basin needs to be managed as effectively and inclusively as possible. We need to create appropriate policy while balancing the need for timely resolution with the potentially damaging long-term consequences. The Central Coast needs to strike a balance between its fiscal health and our resource health. It's important to keep in mind that this crisis was predicted and thus potentially avoidable decades ago. California faces many similar challenges to sharing our common resources now. How we come to a solution on the dwindling water supply in Paso Robles will be an good indicator on how we handle related resource challenges in the future. This is a great challenge and thus is a great opportunity to show leadership on these important resource issues.

During the recession, education faced steep cutbacks. Proposition 30 is funneling more money to schools, but is it enough? What’s your position on education funding?

After having spoken with several people involved in education and observed children from the Central Coast demonstrate aspects of the Common Core, I have never been more excited about public education. The teachers and children are engaged and excited about this approach to learning. What this program lacks is the adequate funding to fully support it. Proposition 30 ultimately did not provide the funding that the teachers and children need and deserve. There is no reason, as one of the biggest economies in the world, California should not be providing top-notch education for their children and compensation for their teachers. The move towards privatization shifts the goal of education from the benefit of the students to the profits of the privately held companies. Adequate funding of our schools would avoid this undesirable outcome.

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