Fuller brings sobering report from state capitol

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Fuller brings sobering report from state capitolJust days after stepping down from her historic appointment as the leader of the Republican caucus in the California Senate, Jean Fuller returned to the Indian Wells Valley last week to share an update from the state capitol.

However, with Democrats holding a supermajority in both houses of California legislature, Gov. Jerry Brown pushing an aggressive spending plan in his last term and $155 billion in tax increases proposed in the first four months of 2017, “Most of what I have to say is bad news,” said Fuller.

Fuller herself is something of an anomaly in the California legislature, where the vast majority of elected officials come from legal, business or political backgrounds. She spent 32 years in education before entering into the political arena, where she rose to be the first woman elected by her peers as Republican leader and is now on the last 18 months of her 12 years in office.

“I’m very excited to be in the grandma stage,” said Fuller, who said she feels a bit nostalgic looking back at her time at the capitol.

“Those of you who have been here since Day 1, when I stumbled up here not knowing what I was doing, I just want you to know that I feel really special toward Ridgecrest and your club.” Members and guests of the Ridgecrest Republican Women Federated packed the venue to hear her message.

“I’m here today to talk about some of the major issues we face at the state,” said Fuller.

“Last year in the state legislature we lost one crucial vote in the Senate and three in the Assembly on the Republican side. That means we can no longer stop new taxes by ourselves.”

The gas tax passed last month is the first example of a successful tax initiative passed with minimum support. Although one Senate Democrat did indeed oppose the new tax, one Republican shifted his support — reportedly because Brown agreed to spend $400 million in taxpayer funds in that Republican’s district.

“The governor is termed out, and he’s not running for anything else,” which Fuller said means he has no political capital to lose by imposing additional taxes.

“The transportation tax that just passed will be very difficult for California — there’s no other way to put it.”

California already has the most taxes, the highest cost of living and the most expensive model for road and maintenance repairs. “We were holding out for a more cost-effective model,” she said. “And this bill won’t even build new highways, so it won’t relieve congestion at all.”

And while inland California will be paying for it, “there are a lot of things that won’t benefit us at all.”

While the tax levies a modest 12 cents per gallon of gas, a report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office predicts an additional 73-cent increase from other cost-drivers.

Meanwhile, California is fighting to get rid of gas and oil, which provide much of the revenue for repairs. “So it’s not a sustainable plan long term.”

Since 2007, the budget has ballooned 46 percent to $284 billion — with much of the money previously allocated to fixed expenditures ranging from health care to education to infrastructure being swept into the general fund.

“It seems like if transportation were really a priority, they would have found somewhere in that 46-percent increase to deal with it.”

With Republicans losing their voice at the capitol, the liberal agenda has few impediments to being adopted.

“So what can we do? We can send letters to the editor and letters to the governor. It does make a difference. If people become unpopular enough, sometimes they can slow things down.”

But since Democrats seem satisfied with the status quo, “You are the ones who are going to have to be more vocal.”

For her remaining time in office, Fuller said. she will be focusing on improving education for Californians — particularly in the underrepresented middle class.

“Before I leave office I want to know, what is our satisfaction with the status of education and where do we want to go?”

She said she has been disappointed that policies have been driving up costs so much with the UC system. Since universities are required to reserve 55 percent of their enrollment to low-income residents, they are filling up the rest of their enrollments with foreign national students, who pay the highest price to attend.

“So how many slots are there for the middle class? Some of our most brilliant kids can’t get in — even if they could afford it. We need to think about the opportunities we are leaving for our children.”

Pictured: Jean Fuller speaking to the Ridgecrest Republican Women Federated in 2016. -- Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2017-04-28