The Vanguard caught up with first term Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada at the California Democratic Convention in Sacramento yesterday. Yamada serves the 8th Assembly District representing Davis and much of Yolo County and the Northern and Eastern Portions of Solano County.
Yamada was asked whether it was different being at the convention now as an Assemblymember.
“It is and it isn’t. It’s different of course because I have a different role. But it’s the same because I’m sitting here with all the delegation and I find that to be the proper place to be.”
“It has certainly been an interesting experience to say the least. Never a dull moment. I was not expecting to come into a $42 billion budget deficit on day one. But it’s a privilege to serve and I’m very grateful to everyone who helped me get to this point. I’ll work hard to represent them.”
I asked her if there was any light at the end of the tunnel in terms of the budget.
“I hope so but I think we have to be very careful about constitutional amendments that might have unintended consequences for future legislatures and the people of California. I hope that everybody studies the propositions before us very carefully and then cast the votes according to their conscience.”
So does that mean she is supporting or opposing the proposition?
“I can say two things. The Assembly Democratic Caucus has recommended an “aye” vote on all six propositions. The caucus was unanimous and I will only be able to speak to the latter four propositions. I have concerns about 1A and 1B. I just recommend everybody read it very careful before casting their vote.”
What are the Assemblymember’s biggest priorities in terms of legislation?
“I am serving on five committees those were largely at my request. I’m still focusing on aging and longterm care, on veterans, on waters and parks, on agriculture, and I’m on rules. So I get to see all the bills in advance in the digest form, it’s very interesting stuff.”
She was then asked about health care.
“I did ask for a health committee assignment but didn’t get one this time. I am a principle co-author of SB 810 on the Assembly side, so I look forward to continue my work on single payer universal health care.”
Quick Comments About the California Budget and Ballot Iniatives
I spent much of my week this week talking to members of the legislature and also candidates for office statewide in 2010. I started out opposed to most of the propositions. I still think they are probably all except 1F going to lose. I am slowly starting to move to support them. I am not there yet, but I am getting closer. Later in the day I talked to Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez who is also running to Lt. Governor in 2010.
Here is what happens if the propositions go down. First of all, even if they pass, we are facing an $8 billion deficit in June, that is on top of the $42 billion deficit we just closed in February. The propositions will provide the funding for an additional $7 billion, mostly simply by moving revenues around. Prop 1A extends the tax increases for two years, but then also caps spending, gives the Governor the authority to kill legislation midterm, etc. Prop 1B which Assemblymember Yamada expressed doubts about (I wonder if she meant 1D because it goes after mental health services) would restore education funding after the crisis passes. We would still have to cut $8 billion but education would largely be made whole at some point.
However, if they all fail, we are at $15 billion. Senator Florez thinks if that happens it becomes an all-cuts budget and $9 billion of that comes from education. For Davis, that means $3 million more in cuts and you can do the math to figure out how many teachers that is. I would say at least 30 to 50 more staff positions.
Some of you conservatives are probably saying right on about now. However, there is another more radical option. Some believe, and one of the Republican leaders put this up this past week as a possibility, that the propositions failing puts the majority budget back in play where the Governor this time would go along with the fees in lieu of taxes in order to prevent the most draconian cuts.
So there are reasons from both the left and the right to support the ballot iniatives. From the left, the ballot iniatives may mean that we end up with $9 billion more in cuts to education. From the right, it may mean new taxes that are called fees but passed with a majority vote.
I am not there yet in terms of supporting the ballot iniatives, but talking with members of the legislature I respect and agree with, I am getting closer to it.
—David M. Greenwald reporting