Fong: Affordability is top priority

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Fong: Affordability is top priorityAffordability for middle-class Californians remains the top priority and concern for Assemblyman Vince Fong, who addressed the Ridgecrest Republican Women, Federated, on Monday. However, his hopes for reversing the trend of increased taxes, fees, regulatory penalties and costs for food, housing and other needs for living, lie in restoring the partisan balance between Republicans and Democrats — which he does not expect will happen quickly.

Right now, the Democrats hold a “Supermajority” in both the State Senate and Assembly, which means that (among other things) they can pass new taxes without having to bargain or compromise with their Republican counterparts.

However, Fong noted, the growing unease among the working class may trigger a shift in legislators up for reelection in 2018. Republicans need only one additional seat in the Senate and two in the Assembly to restore political relevance.

Another opportunity to address how well our elected leadership reflect the diverse interests of Californians will come in 2020, he said, when the citizen-led redistricting effort will begin to ensure that political boundaries are aligned with the new census data collected.

“It is always an honor to be in Ridgecrest — and great to be outside of Sacramento,” Fong said. Since both upper and lower houses of the state legislature are out of session, “there is not a lot more damage that can be done legislatively.”

During numerous public appearances in the Indian Wells Valley during his first eight months in office, he reported that liberals have introduced thousands of bills proposing more than $150 billion in taxes and fees.

In addition to the historic gas tax increase passed earlier this year, the legislature has imposed new housing fees and proposals for a water tax and a $7 billion parks bond. Meanwhile, the phased minimum wage increase has reportedly helped drive up the costs and reduce the number of entry-level jobs.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Fong.

“Last time I spoke here, I articulated that affordability is going to be the issue that dominates 2018. Unfortunately, prediction came true. And if we don’t correct our course, Sacramento will continue to make it worse.”

Other concerns include the state initiatives to weaken the law enforcement and criminal justice systems. “Public safety is another huge concern,” he said. (See related story, this edition.)

“The next controversial topic is going to be the fact that we will become a sanctuary state.”

However people feel about how to move forward on immigration reform, he said, having a state policy that prevents coordination with federal law enforcement is not a good idea.

“Why would you ever think this is a good idea — especially during a time of terrorism and uncertainty? As elected officials, safety is our No. 1 priority. Having this initiative moved forward on a party-line vote is very unfortunate.”

He predicted that costs will continue to hit taxpayers, especially those under the growing mandates and fees of our current regulatory climate.

“The good news is, I think the public is starting to wake up …. from the beginning of the day to the end of the day, life is most expensive.

“You’re going to have to work longer hours just to make a living.”

Among the questions from the audience was an inquiry into how the legislature could incentivize the mass exodus of retirees — who are taking their pensions and moving to states with lower tax rates.

Fong acknowledged the challenge of moving disposable income out of state and added that our unfunded pension liabilities are the “elephant in the room” at our Capitol.

“It really comes back to why folks are leaving in the first place,” said Fong.

“They can’t afford to live in the state.”

And it’s not just the retirees.

“The working middle-class is leaving California because they can’t find work and they don’t have a way to survive. They get to keep an extra 4 percent of their income just by leaving the state.”

See also related editorial:

Assemblyman Vince Fong addressing the Ridgecrest Republican Women on Monday. -- Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2017-09-29