Courtesy of the Arcata Eye, Arcata CA.
What would Darin do?
By Lynette Mullen
“It is going to take commitment from generations of governors and commitment from Californians to really want to solve things,” observed Darin Price, Humboldt County’s only officially registered candidate for governor.
Recently, Price has been balancing a fall semester teacher schedule at Humboldt State University with a run at the governor’s office. He is an expert at multi-tasking, he explained, and community support of his efforts is making the task easier. “Even if they don’t agree with me, at least I’m trying to do something,” Price said. “It is easy to complain and they respect the fact that I’m trying.”
He said he receives over 100 e-mails a day asking his opinion on many of the issues facing Californians. Price said he tries to respond to them all, even when he has no easy answers. “I just received a letter from a kid whose father is in prison. He wanted to know if I would release his father from prison if I became governor,” he said.
This week the Eye asks Price to offer his solutions to some of the state’s most pressing problems.
The economy and budget deficit remain core issues for this Natural Law Party Candidate and he says responsibility for the mess should be shared. “This huge problem can be attributed partially to the legislators in Sacramento, partially to the cyclic nature of the economy beyond any individual’s control and partially on the voters in California,” he said.
Price blames Sacramento legislators for the recent rise in spending. “Just a few years ago California had a $70 billion annual budget. We are now spending $99 billion… and I don’t think we are all doing one-third better than a few years ago nor are there one third more services.” In fact, Price added, state services and the quality of education seem to be declining. “This shows that just throwing money at a problem is not always the solution,” he observed.
And compulsive spending, Price said, simply compounds the problem. “Our elected representatives can not help but spend every penny they collect, plus some. We need to really save and build reserves when the economy is going strong.” Price advocates saving at least one percent of the annual budget to help the state weather economic downturns.
This local candidate believes the state can confront and overcome its current economic challenges without increasing taxes. He advocates a state policy that requires that every new dollar spent match a dollar saved or cut from another program. “We are expecting a $12 billion deficit next year [$8 billion carried over from this year plus $4 billion from next year]. While this is an extraordinary amount of money, it is still only 12 percent of our budget. I think we can easily save 12 percent without sacrificing programs or raising taxes,” he said.
Price said the savings can come easily by monitoring spending and cutting costs. “If all vehicles that were purchased by the state were required to be fuel efficient we could save hundreds of millions of dollars on fuel alone without giving up any programs,” Price said.
The Costco approach
The candidate continues to advocate for a Costco-type or bulk buying state program to help save money. “I don’t think it should be mandated [for hospitals, etc.] but it should be available for organizations that want to save money. The program could also be available to schools and other government agencies to help reduce costs.” Price said he has watched the university system use a similar approach to reduce costs in his chemistry department at HSU.
According to Price, the university system receives competitive bids to supply certain products. “We have a deal with chemical company to receive supplies at a discounted rate. We get supplies at about half the price, and it is good for the company because even though they make less per sale, they sell more,” he added.
Price conceded that some of the state’s current economic woes were unavoidable. “It is natural for the economy to fluctuate up and down over time. We went from an economy that was over-inflated to one that was somewhat undervalued. However,” he said, “This down cycle should have been predicted and real reserves should have been set aside.”
Price believes that part of the deficit will decrease naturally as the economy recovers regardless of the election results. “We are seeing sustained gains in the stock market, unemployment claims are at a six-month low and interest rates are stabilizing at a reasonable level,” he said.
When a bond initiative is passed by the voters, bonds are sold to fund approved programs. These bonds are repaid by the state over a number of years, financing programs with long-term debt. According to Price, the state’s recent economic performance has placed California’s bond rating one step above junk status, costing the state unnecessary millions. “As our bond rating decreases, the cost to sell these bonds increases and the cost of each bond initiative rises far above the original predicted analysis,” he explained.
Price insists that legislators and residents reconsider their use of bond initiatives to fund programs. “Bonds are used by lawmakers to avoid committing funds to programs when the money has run out. They pick and chose the issues, then shirk their responsibility by making the public decide. They know that they [the voters] will support clean water, for example… they borrow to spend, spend it all and want to spend more.”
Price continues to advocate for increasing educational funding that directly benefits students. “We must cut administrative and support costs and spend that money to reduce class sizes.” Price argues that funding education will benefit the economy in the long-term because studies show that higher education levels result in greater incomes. More money, Price pointed out, means more taxable income.
Prevention, the candidate said, is much cheaper than undetected or untreated heath problems. “We don’t need more money,” Price insisted. “We just need to spend the money we have differently. We need to stop increases in health care costs and shift from emergency to preventative care.”
“Every time we vote, it is a potential term limit. I don’t think we need to institutionalize it. We lose good people. Take Wes Chesbro. He is a great guy, energetic with a positive voice. Term limits get rid of good people,” he said.
Price added that term limits also limit legislative experience. Many retired legislators are recruited as lobbyists for special interest groups, who then benefit from their experience. “Many lobbyists have over twenty years of experience, when our legislators have two to six years. Those lobbyists can have a lot of influence,” he observed.
Govs aren’t god
As governor, Price admitted that he would not have a direct hand in creating public policy. “It is more a thumbs up, thumbs down type of system. I get to sign or veto proposals.” But, Price said, the governor is able to appoint people to influential committees that can advocate for certain programs. “I could let them know what I will and won’t sign,” Price added.