Local News

Friday, May 04 2012 04:18 PM

34th district Assembly candidates disagree on tax increases, key issues

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    By Alex Horvath / The Californian

    Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, candidate for the 34th Assembly District seat.

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    By Alex Horvath / The Californian

    Mari Goodman, candidate for the 34th Assembly seat.

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BY ANTONIE BOESSENKOOL Californian staff writer aboessenkool@bakersfield.com

Assemblywoman Shannon Grove and her opponent, Mari Goodman, sparred Friday over air quality regulations, Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed tax increases and especially unions and state workers.

Goodman, a Democrat, is a representative for Service Employees International Union Local 1000, made up of state employees. Grove, a Republican, is running for her second term in the state Assembly.

Grove now represents the 32nd district, but much of that area will become the 34th district in the June primary elections.

The two women visited The Californian as part of a series of meetings the newspaper's editorial board is holding with candidates on the June ballot.

Goodman said her work as a union organizer has given her experience to take to the state capitol.

She said she got involved in union leadership while working for the state department of corrections and worked to mobilize members behind state legislation that would affect them.

"In that experience, I learned how hard it was to get a bill passed and what it takes. ... It takes a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure that bill ends up on somebody's desk," she said. That's "why I think I'm very qualified for doing this."

Grove responded: "Over the last couple of years, we've fought the union power (in the state Capitol)."

"If you take the state employee public unions ... and the private sector is underneath paying the taxes to pay for it, we are getting crushed right now (in the state budget)."

As for the sales tax and high-income tax increases being pushed by Brown, Grove said she doesn't support tax increases.

Brown's proposal to increase income taxes on high-income earners will drive those people out of the state, she said.

Because high-income earners pay a disproportionately large share of state tax revenue, it will take millions jobs to make up for that loss if they move out of state, she said. Grove said overregualtion in the state is driving businesses to set up shop elsewhere.

"The government can't come together and get out of the private sector's way to ease regulatory issues ... and ease the process of starting a business," she said.

Speaking of state workers in unemployment offices in particular, Goodman said, "This is not a good time to gut any kind of state work. I think the state workers aren't quite crushing everything."

Goodman said she supports the idea of increasing taxes on incomes over $250,000 per person and a one-fourth cent sales tax increase, as Brown has proposed.

"That's a fair way of increasing revenue," she said. Referring to a recent proposal by Republican state legislators to cut state worker pay, Goodman said, "How do you increase revenue by decreasing the pay of other people who are then not going to go out there and shop?"

Air quality and other environmental regulation were other areas of disagreement.

Although air quality has improved, "You cannot strangle business," Grove said. Major farming companies are looking for property outside the state because of overregulation, she said. "You can't have that."

"There's a reason we have the regulations in place," Goodman said. Areas of overregulation may need to be examined, but, she said, "I'm not ready to compromise the environment."

Goodman and Grove addressed how, as candidates with opposing views, each represents people in the district.

"There are so many state facilities ... that are affected in all of these decisions that are made at the legislative level," Goodman said. "These folks carry the state. ... The union represents those state workers."

Those state workers want to "make sure there's some fairness" in taxation and job security, she said. "It seems like John Q. Public wants to get rid of their jobs."

Grove said people registered in both of the major political parties have supported her proposal to make serving in the state legislature a part-time position. That proposal didn't gather enough signatures to get on the ballot this year, but the campaign behind that effort is hoping to get it on the 2014 ballot.

As for Central Valley residents, she said, "I believe that people in the district like free market and fair competition," Grove said. "They like the freedoms that they enjoy, whether it be carrying their gun ... or they enjoy their First Amendment rights. ... They don't like those things trampled on, so I hope I represent their voice."

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