California’s Next Assembly Speaker Meets With Reporters
John Perez, the unanimous choice of the Democratic majority to be the next speaker of the Assembly met with reporters December 11 and said increasing taxes should be considered as part of a solution to the state’s $20 billion-plus budget shortfall.
Perez, 40, would become California’s first openly gay Assembly speaker when he takes office some time in 2010.
“I think it will happen sooner than later,” Perez said of succeeding current speaker Karen Bass, also a Los Angeles Democrat.
Answering questions carefully and diplomatically, Perez echoed Democratic themes.
Would he support suspending AB 32, the landmark measure aimed at reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020?
No. He said he’s seen no evidence the measure is a “true impediment” to economic growth and that environmental stewardship and a good business climate are not mutually exclusive.
Would he re-open negotiations over the “pork-laden” $11 billion water bond approved by lawmakers last month?
“I don’t think it’s pork-laden,” Perez said. Improving the state’s water delivery system has “been on the table 45 years,” he said, and, consequently, there are “a lot of pockets that need attention.”
Rather than re-opening the issue, Perez said, “We don’t want to make the perfect the enemy of the good.”
As to resolving the $20 billion budget shortfall, Perez said, “Everything has to be on the table,” including tax increases.
He acknowledged the difficulty in approving those tax increases, given the ability of Republicans to prevent Democrats from reaching the two-thirds majority needed to approve them.
Perez, the former political director of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324, said that part of the budget solution should include “much needed reforms.”
While he said he didn’t have any specific reforms he wanted to endorse he did support lowering the approval threshold for a budget from two-thirds to s simple majority.
“We need to have transparency in government,” Perez said, in defense of a majority vote on budgets.
As a union officer, Perez said he learned how to “balance the interests of businesses and workers.”
The first term Assemblyman said he was “honored and humbled” by his caucus’ selection of him as the next speaker.
And while he did not initially seek the job, he said his colleagues drafted him because the “only way to get out of this crisis is a collaborative leadership style.”
Of the speakership, Perez said:
“My job is to help bring people together and to leverage their ideas.”
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