Monning, Kain differ on role of government in 17th District race

Bill Monning and  Palmer Kain
Bill Monning and Palmer Kain

In a district that heavily favors a Democratic candidate, Republican Palmer Kain faces an uphill battle against incumbent Bill Monning in the race for California’s 17th District state Senate seat.

The candidates will face off in the June 7 primary as the only two candidates in the race, meaning they’ll automatically move on to the Nov. 8 general election.

Monning supports the Democratic party agenda and points to increased spending on education and firefighting services, new policy on water conservation and environmental conscientiousness, and a balanced budget.

Kain thinks the Democrat-controlled Legislature overspends, overtaxes and allocates funding to the wrong areas. He supports lower taxes and governmental regulations on businesses, as well as spending money on roads and other infrastructure instead of on the high-speed rail project.

The 17th District includes all of San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz counties, and portions of Monterey and Santa Clara counties.

Monning, 65, of Carmel, has a background as a lawyer and educator. He previously served one four-year term in the state Assembly from 2008 to 2012, followed by a four-year term starting in 2012 in his current Senate district.

He believes that significant progress has been made under the leadership of Gov. Jerry Brown and a Democrat-controlled Legislature.

“We’ve restored the state’s economic health,” Monning said. “We have protected vital services.”

In 2012, Monning won 63 percent of the vote in the general election, beating Republican Larry Beaman — and he has vastly outraised Kain, accumulating more than $300,000 compared with Kain’s $7,600, as of the most recent reporting period.

Kain, 37, of Aptos, is a veteran of the U.S. Army, having joined after high school. He has since worked in agriculture insurance and as an e-commerce manager of a juice company, among other jobs. He graduated from an Israeli university, the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy, in 2013 with a government degree that specialized in counterterrorism. In addition, he ran unsuccessfully for the state’s 29th District Assembly seat in 2014, taking 31 percent of the vote and falling to incumbent Mark Stone.

Kain says people are disenfranchised, and he’s counting on a higher Republican voter turnout this year, feeling the district has been underrepresented at the polls.

“This is the community I grew up in,” Kain said. “I refuse to stand by idly and let our ancestors’ hard work be in vain. We have to adapt to overcome.”

Kain says California’s taxes are chasing businesses out of state, to locations such as Texas where they pay less in regulatory assessments. Also, Kain hopes to upgrade water technology and lower housing costs for veterans, as well as for all California residents.

Both Monning and Kain cited the need for California to improve the condition of its water supply, as the five-year drought continues. The candidates answered questions in separate phone interviews with The Tribune on California’s water supply, Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, state spending and other topics.

Bill Monning

Monning said that he’s proud of several legislative initiatives that he has played a role in or supported during his recent term in office.

He co-authored the controversial End of Life Option Act, which takes effect June 9. It allows doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs for a terminally ill patient at the patient’s request. He also authored legislation as part of multiple bills that authorized and funded the establishment of the California Central Coast Veterans Cemetery at the former Fort Ord site.

Other pending legislation includes his Senate Bill 968, introduced in February, that would require PG&E to submit an assessment of the economic impacts to San Luis Obispo County if the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant were to shut down, and develop a contingency plan for mitigating adverse affects.

Monning said he has not yet taken a position on whether the plant should be relicensed, however, and is monitoring the progress of the plant’s relicensing efforts. Diablo Canyon employs more than 1,400 people and pays for about 16 percent of the tax revenue of the San Luis Coastal Unified School District.

“My legislation is to prepare for a sudden and unexpected or even a planned closure,” Monning said. “San Onofre shut down overnight, and there was no preparation for the sudden closure in that community.”

Monning also supports a bill proposed by state Sen. Kevin de León to provide $2 billion to pay for housing the growing homeless population in California.

“Homelessness is a big issue,” Monning said.

Monning backs initiatives to improve transit funding and support for infrastructure, saying that the mayors of San Luis Obispo County, with whom he meets regularly, cite poor road and highway conditions.

We’ve restored the state’s economic health. We have protected vital services.

Democrat Bill Monning, 17th district state Senate candidate

Some of Monning’s bills on the horizon include: a proposal to better protect eel grass along California’s coastline; a proposal to expand the allowance of veteran GI benefits to pay tuition at accredited community law schools such as the Monterey College of Law, which has a San Luis Obispo branch; and a proposal to establish a more rigorous process for prescribing psychotropic drugs to foster children.

Monning also supports legislation proposed by state Sen. Mark Leno that encourages developing housing for school district employees on district-owned property.

On the subject of water, Monning said he supported state legislation paving the way for a groundwater management district in the Paso Robles basin, which voters rejected, leaving the management to either be taken on by the county or the state.

“The fact that the voters rejected it puts the plan on the back shelf,” Monning said.

However, throughout the district Monning said communities have done a good job of complying with the state’s mandatory water conservation measures.

Saying that no single solution exists, he supports measures that include recapturing, reusing and recycling water.

The senator, who said he visits the county about once per month on average and staffs a local office, noted the increased support for education and Cal Fire services to combat drought conditions.

“The state has grown the Cal Fire budget from $150 million to $1 billion per year so we can have immediate, rapid response to wildfires so that they don’t grow into massive, devastating fires,” Monning said.

Palmer Kain

Kain would like to see Diablo Canyon relicensed, saying that the state’s renewable energy sources aren’t capable of meeting the current demands, and the need for a diversified energy portfolio will be required until renewables are able to supply more of the state.

He also said that California must do a better job of keeping companies from leaving the state to set up shop in places that have a lower tax rate. If elected, he plans to work to create legislation that would send more tax dollars back to the local level, allowing district residents to see a larger return on tax dollars, and lower taxes for small businesses.

“You can’t punish businesses with taxes,” Kain said. “They’ll go where it’s easier to do business. ... This is my home, and I’ve had many opportunities to leave. But I won’t, and I won’t be silent about the issues that affect this district.”

Kain views agriculture as a key area for improvement and vows on his website to work to “place a five-year moratorium on implementation of all new agriculture regulations in California, in order to allow the farmers of this state to analyze and assist me in deciding which regulations should be modified or done away with to meet all of California’s farmers’ needs.”

Kain believes farmers are spending too much complying with environmental regulations on water use, for example, paying between $300 and $600 per acre-foot of water, he said.

Kain said he feels that some infrastructure problems facing the state come from misallocation of state funds and overregulation. He cites the high-speed rail project as a poor use of taxpayer money that could go toward repairing roads and bridges, or other needs.

“With all due respect to the status quo, it’s doing a poor job of managing our money,” Kain said. “Bridges are in desperate need of repair, schools are underfunded. The train idea borrows billions, and it cripples the economy.”

With all due respect of the status quo, it’s doing a poor job of managing our money.

Republican Palmer Kain, 17th district State Senate candidate

He also says that Caltrans is mismanaged with overspending, and that some communities aren’t getting the law enforcement revenues they deserve.

“The more the government regulates, the more it slows us down and makes us less efficient,” Kain said. “We need to return the power to the local communities.”

Kain said California’s water technology has fallen behind, and he would like to see the use of desalination and other technologies improve the state’s system, while decreasing the regulations on farmers and others to install new equipment.

He also supports the use of an “organic soil optimizing formulation” that he said would significantly reduce demands for water, fertilizers and pesticides, as well as alternative irrigation systems that sense water saturation to conserve water.

“When elected, I will immediately implement technological innovations districtwide to reduce our water consumption and end this crisis,” Kain said.

As for housing, he believes that permitting costs are crippling new development and reducing home affordability in the district.

“I’ve been renting since I was 18,” Kain said. “We need to streamline the permitting process and eliminate the high costs.”

Kain also said that he visits San Luis Obispo County about once per month.

“All four counties suffer from housing costs, and a lack of health care, education and water issues,” Kain said. “California has been placed in a debt burden by the way that Sacramento has taxed. I’ll bring honesty and veracity, and not just pandering to special interests.”

About the candidates

Bill Monning

Political party: Democrat

Age: 65

Education: Bachelor’s degree, dynamics of international development, UC Berkeley; J.D., University of San Francisco School of Law

Family: Dr. Dana Kent (wife); Laura and Alexandra (daughters); three grandchildren

Current occupation: State senator, Senate majority leader, 17th district

Previous employment: Attorney with the Law Office of William W. Monning; professor at Middlebury Institute of International Studies (formerly, Monterey Institute of International Studies) and director of master’s degree program in international trade and commercial diplomacy; professor at Monterey College of Law and executive director of the Mandell-Gisnet Center for Conflict Management; executive director of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War in Boston, Mass.; directing attorney of California Rural Legal Assistance, Migrant Farmworker Project; staff attorney with United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO.

Previous public office: State Assembly

Why he is running: Eight years ago, voters sent me to Sacramento to make a difference, and I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish together. While California’s economy has recovered since the Great Recession, I will continue to focus on creating jobs by strengthening the backbones of our local economy: agriculture, tourism and our educational institutions.

Which presidential candidate he will support: Hillary Clinton

Palmer Kain

Political party: Republican

Age: 37

Education: Bachelor’s degree, government, Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy (based in Israel); associate’s degree, Cabrillo College

Family: Single

Current occupation: Candidate for California State Senate’s 17th District

Previous employment: U.S. Army/NATO command; agriculture insurance; e-commerce manager of juice company

Previous public offices: Senior aide to the mayor of Santa Cruz

Why he is running: “I am running for the California State Senate to show fellow citizens that there are still citizens that believe in hard work, service to the community, and the ability to change the status quo. I am a veteran of the U.S. Army with overseas service to our nation. I have worked from the local to the state, national and international level politically.”

Which presidential candidate he will support: “I will wait to see once the parties (Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian) have chosen their nominees. Then and only then will my campaign evaluate whether or not to endorse and/or support them.”