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by Joe Simitian, for The Pilot: The Guide to the Redwood Shores Neighborhood

February 19, 2003


It’s been a little more than two years since I first came to the State Assembly. Since then, a lot has happened.  The challenges of the first session were many— from the energy debacle to the budget crisis, to the tragedy of September 11th, which cast our sense of safety in an entirely new light.

The question now is, how do we face the challenges ahead?

Get our fiscal house in order. The most pressing thing on every legislator’s mind is the painful and gaping $34 billion budget deficit that threatens to undermine the health, welfare, and education of nearly every Californian in the State. A $34 billion deficit in an $80 billion general fund means cutting $1 of every $3. That’s a Herculean if not impossible task.

But something must be done. As painful as it is, the answer is plain. We must take action to reduce spending, increase revenues and grow the economy, and we must do it sooner rather than later.  Otherwise, we lose money with every passing day, and we let important work that is not-budget related go undone.

Commitment to Education.  In my third year as Chair of the Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance, it’s a challenge to reconcile budget reductions with the educational needs of six million students. But we must find a way to keep our commitment to education strong, even in times of fiscal crisis.  We’ve worked hard improve accountability and student performance, and we must fight to keep the performance gains we’ve made over the last few years. In fiscally tough times, local choice and local control can go a long way toward stretching education dollars. I’ve proposed a bill that will help school districts pass local parcel taxes with a 55%, rather than two-thirds majority vote.

If there is a bright side to the budget crisis, it is seeing how deeply engaged and committed students and parents are to education. They see what is at stake and are fighting tooth and nail to keep the quality of education high.

Protecting the Environment. We must take State action to protect the State’s natural resources.  I’ve introduced two important bills this session—one that protects our coastal waters and another that ensures that timber harvest plans take adverse environmental impact into account.

I’m working closely with environmental groups on the Peninsula to introduce additional legislation that’s both tough and smart, and will challenge us to think hard about the best environmental standards to enforce, while helping businesses comply with sound environmental laws.

Communicating With You.  An important aspect of my job is hearing what constituents think. You can find me at sidewalk office hours—usually twice a month—as well as at public events. Feel free to call my district office to find out what’s happening and when.

To let you know what’s going on at the Capitol, I co-host a monthly half-hour television show called Capitol Focus, which airs on five different cable stations throughout the district.

I encourage you to visit my district office in Palo Alto or my office in the State Capitol to share your views, or to learn more about our efforts.  If I can assist you with a state government matter, please don’t hesitate to contact me at (650) 688-6384.  Stay in touch!

(Assemblyman Joe Simitian represents the 21st Assembly District, which includes all or part of 13 cities in San Mateo County and Santa Clara County, including Redwood Shores.  His chairs the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance and the Select Committee on Privacy; he also serves on the Assembly’s Appropriations, Budget, Transportation, and Revenue and Taxation Committees.  Prior to his election to the Assembly, he served as a member of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, Mayor of Palo Alto, and President of the Palo Alto School Board.)

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