Fong brings update from state capitol

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Fong brings update  from state capitolAssemblyman Vince Fong shared the challenges facing Californians and some of his proposed solutions, in a Wednesday morning address to the members of the Indian Wells Valley Economic Development Corp.

“Vince is a real forward thinker,” said IWVEDC Executive Director Scott O’Neil. He pointed to Fong’s focus on trade and job creation, his role as a leader in the push for energy independence and his support of defense as it relates to national security and a state economic driver.

“The biggest challenge I see in Sacramento is that we think too short term — what can we accomplish each year, or each budget cycle or the two-year-term we are in office.

“What do we want our county, our state, to look like in 30 years? Or 50 years, for that matter? What do transportation, education, energy, and infrastructure need to look like? That’s what we need to be thinking about.”

He said the biggest failure at the capital is the inability of legislators and bureaucrats to address the affordability crisis in California.

“It is not affordable anywhere you live, whether that is San Francisco, Kern County, Orange County or Los Angeles.”

He said that those increasing costs are driven primarily by the policies being made in Sacramento.

“Milton Friedman turned Kennedy’s view on its head — What can government do for you? What we really need to answer right now is what has government done to you.”

The California Environmental Quality Act was established to provide environmental protections, not to serve as “lethal weapons that keep communities from improving themselves.” Without reform, it is impossible to build enough homes to accommodate affordable housing for the qualified workforce that is currently in demand, he said.

Similarly, electricity rates are going up because utilities are mandating the purchase of more expensive energy and passing the costs along to their customers.

The recent passage of the controversial gas tax have increased the cost of fuel without investing to the level promised in crumbling transportation infrastructure.

Those increased transportation costs, coupled with other increased regulations in agriculture, have driven up food prices.

“All of these things make it more expensive to live here,” said Fong. “The lens we need to use [when we consider legislation] is, ‘Does this proposal make it more expensive or less expensive to live in California?’”

In terms of moving forward, Fong said, the legislature needs to rein in agencies — which are neither elected nor accountable to the public — that are implementing mandates ranging from water to education to air quality that drive up costs.

He said that a recent mandate to require solar equipment in all new home construction will add between $20,000 and $25,000 to the cost of a new home.

“You now have a major decision that potentially impacts the cost of living for everyone in California … The legislature should have the final say — we are the elected body and supposedly the closest to the public.”

Fong has proposed legislation that prohibits public agencies from implementing plans that cost the taxpayer more than $15 million. “We should be able to review and analyze and, if we agree to the plan, hold public agencies accountable to them.”

He said the state budget — approved at an unprecedented $201 billion last month — is in desperate need of streamlining.

Fong said that there is a disconnect between the stated priorities of legislatures and the reality of those funding priorities in the budget. The money that has been approved needs to be monitored closely to ensure that it is spent on the water and transportation infrastructure we need.

With a continuing rise in crime, public safety remains an issue in California. Fong said that initiatives that facilitated early release and watered-down sentencing guidelines are currently the subject of reform.

In terms of economic health, Fong said, the economy is growing in spite of the policies crafted in Sacramento, not because of them.

“This is an important distinction,” he said. “High producers are leaving because of the rate they are being taxed, low-income earners are leaving because they can no longer afford to live here.”

There is sometimes a delay in feeling how those regulations drive up costs, but Fong said he believes the impact of the new gas tax, among others, is slowly generating an awakening among the public.

“People are finally seeing how a decision made in Sacramento is extremely regressive and costs them a lot of money.

“The most important thing this community can do is have this discussion ... This is not just something that happens on the other side of the state, it’s happening here.”

Pictured: Assemblyman Vince Fong addresses the IWV Economic Development Corp. Wednesday at SpringHill Suites. — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2018-07-20