Local Politics

Thursday, Apr 26 2012 06:30 PM

Assembly candidates agree: Sacramento is gridlocked

BY ANTONIE BOESSENKOOL Californian staff writer aboessenkool@bakersfield.com

Rudy Salas and Jon McQuiston, competing for the new 32nd Assembly District seat, agree on at least one thing -- that the state legislature is ineffective.

"Like many, I'm tired of the gridlock, tired of the polarity that exists," Republican McQuiston said during a meeting with Democrat Salas and The Californian's editorial board Thursday.

Salas echoed that, saying, "When you look at Sacramento, the consensus is it's broken."

Salas said that if he's elected, he "could truly hit the ground running" because of the relationships he's formed with lawmakers while working as a Bakersfield city councilman and as a staff member for former state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter.

"In Sacramento, you need to build relationships," he said, adding that more than 30 elected officials have endorsed him. "Which means when we need to get something done for the valley, I'll have the relationships to deliver on that."

McQuiston pointed to his work as a Kern County supervisor, a position he's held since 1996.

"Being on the Board of Supervisors now for 15 years, we found ways to work together to fix problems. Much of what's happening in Sacramento is fixing blame," he said. "I'm very interested in going to Sacramento and looking forward to the opportunity to try and find a way that the legislators in the San Joaquin Valley can find things to work together (on)."

One of those issues is protecting California's military bases from cuts, an issue both Democrats and Republicans in the state legislature can agree on, he said.

Both men said the state government needs to get its spending under control.

"We're broke (and) the (state's) fiscal policy is broke," McQuiston said.

"We've got to stop the nonsense of creating laws that have automatic escalators whether or not the revenues are there. ... There has to be some methodology to simply say we're not going to spend more than we make."

"The business climate, the regulatory climate is burdensome" and causing businesses to move out of the state, McQuiston said. As an example, he said the cap-and-trade regulations for greenhouse gas emissions, which will take effect in 2013, "is a job killer."

"You're going to have to pay to buy some credits to continue to operate, and who's going to pay for that?" he said. "It's going to be the consumer."

Growing the economy has to come first, he said.

"Until we address the economic policies and the spending policies ... we're not going to resolve the budget or the structural deficit."

Salas agreed that the state legislature needs to keep its spending within limits, and offered two ideas for spending cuts. The first would be to cap state government workers' salaries.

"We have a lot of people in state government right now that get paid more than the governor of the state of California," Salas said. "I would propose something to end that practice."

A second idea would be to use telemedicine, which allows a doctor to see a patient from another location, by camera, to replace the three guards needed to escort prisoners to hospitals when they need medical attention.

Besides McQuiston and Salas, two other candidates are vying for the 32nd District seat. Dave Thomas, a dairy farmer and former Hanford city councilman, is running as a Republican. Pedro Rios, a former Delano city councilman and small business owner, is also running as a Republican.

The Californian invited Thomas and Rios to meet with the editorial board also. Thomas never committed to coming; Rios said he had to attend to a friend whose mother died.

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