Interview: Ron Nehring, candidate for California Lieutenant Governor

Here’s a short version.

Below is a longer version, as Halfway To Concord interviewed Ron Nehring, a GOP candidate for Lieutnenant Governor, on a variety of issues facing California; starting with:

H2C: What’s up with status of the office of Lieutenant Governor in California?

The Lieutenant Governor office varies state-by-state. In Texas you’re more powerful than the governor in many regards, but in California you don’t even control your parking space, as Cruz Bustamante learned in 2003.

So I think the office as currently constructed is what the holder chooses to make of it. Gavin Newsom’s vision of the office is to use it as a taxpayer-funded political exploratory committee for a 2018 Gubernatorial campaign. Newsom made fun of the office and said it should be abolished before he ran for it, so I think Gavin Newsom is someone who’s interested in the title as opposed necessarily to doing the job.

 ron nehring lietnenant governorThe fact the California now has the highest income taxes in America, the high sales tax, gas tax, the most most punishing business climate in America for the eighth straight year calls for an all hands on deck by almost every elected to put forward and advocate for the ideas necessary to make California competitive.

And that means that while the legislature is persistently preoccupied with the day-to-day sausage making, the grind of the legislative process, with the governor’s focus on day-to-day responsibilities, there doesn’t seem to be anybody focused on the long-term picture.

For example, what should California’s 21st century tax program look like that’s competitive with other states like Nevada and Arizona, and elsewhere. The Lietenant Governor office has a lot of potential but needs someone who will utilize it to its full potential and not just wait around for the next government job.

You can use the office so you can bring people together, something I did when I was state GOP party chairman and San Diego County party chairman, to bring people together with diverse viewpoints provide some leadership.

H2C: Why are you more qualified than other GOP candidates running for the office?

Only one of us can make the runoff, and our campaign is on track to make it into the top two runoff in November. We are running a good campaign with a great team that’s all volunteer, with highly talented people from around the State. We have volunteers active in every region of California, and have the support of 96% of the County Republican committees. Republican leaders have endorsed our campaign like Tom McClintock, the California Republican Assembly, California Republican Federation, Los Angeles County Lincoln Clubs, and the National Rifle Association.

Those groups’ support means a great deal in this primary election in terms of getting the chance again this mid-November. I think that the challenge to finding a pathway to victory is that the Lieutenant Governor is a low-profile office. So we are focusing on two things: 1) competence and leadership; and 2) reconnecting with voters on issues that transcend parties, that help solve those issues which appeal to not only Republicans but Democrats and Independents.

I’ve worked 25 years on Republican ideas and action, and I’ve served four years as chairman of the California Republican Party. Why that’s relevant is that the figures show the California Republican Party was $4.7 million in debt from the 2006 reelection in the Schwarzenegger era. By the time I left the office as party chairman, we were in the black and we had more than $480,000 in cash on hand with no debt, no bills, and we had professional staff.

So I’ve demonstrated not only my commitment to advancing sound ideas on public policy but also practicing good management, so that as vice chairman of the party in San Diego helped elect Kevin Faulconer to Mayor San Diego which is a big city in America now with a Republican mayor.

H2C: What steps should the GOP take to win elections in California?

In heavily Democratic areas like the Bay Area, the greatest opportunities for Republican advancement is winning local government elections and offices. The same is true in Republican areas where Democrats run because the party label doesn’t have as much of an impact in those local offices. We see greater opportunities for growth as more Republicans run for local office.

Still, there is no such thing as a nonpartisan office because every office is an opportunity to advance our ideas and actions that can benefit and improve people’s lives statewide.

California has a big problem. Democrats are the only voice in Sacramento today. Republicans deserve to have a voice as well and that’s why it should be the goal of every statewide Republican running that our goal collectively should be have a voice in the solutions for the State. But today we have a Democrat Party monopoly.

H2c: What positive Republican messages will attract immigrants?

The GOP needs to build a new statewide majority coalition in California. Our state in 1980 was 19% Latino. 30% Latino today. The Asian population has grown to 13.6%, and yet those two groups vote against Republicans 75% of the time. That’s a serious challenge. We need candidates who are willing to go outside their comfort zone and into those regions of the state where Republicans have not done well in the past and where they may not do great today. But we have to prepare for tomorrow and begin to build those relationships today.

My parents were immigrants from Germany coming to the U.S. in 1961. They spoke no English when they came and learned by watching cartoons on television. And yet my father joined the Republican Party because, when he was watching the political debates in 1960s, he believed the Republicans stood for freedom and opportunity, and the Democrats sounded to him like the same people who Mom and Dad wanted to leave behind back in Europe.

So my father naturally joined the Republican Party. It was a natural decisionfor an immigrant, and I think the Republican Party should be the natural place for immigrants; for people who are coming to America to get away from lousy government back home, and that the Republican Party is the party that represents freedom and opportunity that was lacking back home. So the GOP has to do a better job making that case and welcoming newcomers to this country into the Republican Party.

H2C: Let’s talk about what issues to which you as Lieutnenant Governor can draw special attention

Education

Look at Florida. They adopted universal school choice where the money follows the student. There were two conditions in order to participate in that program. One, is that tuition that goes along with the child has to cover the entire tuition; schools cannot charge an additional thousand dollars. And number two is that each school participating has to be run by a panel elected by the parents of the children who attend school so that you have correlation between school performance and the consumers of those services.

Pension Reform

Nehring faulconerThe Governor and Sacramento Democrats claim to have solved the state’s budget. But they ignore over $100 billion in unfunded retiree pension and healthcare obligations. We need to follow the model passed by voters across the board in San Diego by moving state workers into fully funded, 401k-style pension plans that are portable and flexible. Proposition B, passed in San Diego by a wide margin, was, by any measure, a bold reform.

Tim Donnelly’s campaign for Governor

It’s clear that there are many folks in the state who are very frustrated with California government, It is too big, too intrusive, and its too ineffective and too expensive, and Tim Donnelly has really struck a chord with a lot of people who have that the frustration.

We are not endorsing any candidate for governor one way or another. As California’s Lieutenant Governor I want to be able to preserve our ability to work with the entire Republican team going forward. A Lietnenant Governor should have a good relationship with whoever the Governor is and other statewide elected officials, no matter whether that is Jerry Brown, Neil Kashkari, or Tim Donnelly.

The point is to focus on a set of issues that are important, particularly improving our economic competitiveness, maximizing our liberty and freedom in the state, and giving people more choices and options in education, and to the extent that we can find agreement with other elected officials, we should work together to advance those ideas as Republicans and Democrats together.

Is Water an Energy issue?

Water is a top issue in California. But it is tied to energy.

There is no question about the impact of the drought. It is not because of global warming. We are inadequately prepared for droughts because we don’t have the water storage and conveyance necessary to get water from where it is to where it’s needed. The Delta is a complex issue. It’s a fact that we have more water in the North and we need more water in the Central Valley and in the Southland, and we have to work out solutions that make sense.

Options include desalination. But one of the biggest challenges is the energy costs to desalinate water when California has some of the highest energy costs in the country. When energy costs go down you reduce the price of water. So water can also be an energy issue. For example, I live at an elevation of about 1600 feet and my water bill is enormous not because of scarce water supply but because of the pumping charges to get the water from down below up the hill to many other neighborhoods.

So we have to bring down the cost of energy in California, which is something you don’t find any Democrats talk about. I would urge you to find a Democrat who says “I want energy to be cheap.” It’s very rare to find someone on the Left who will say that because their entire theology is based on expensive energy. For the Left, any energy that is not coming from wind or solar has to be expensive relative to wind and solar which are really more expensive, given the current state of technology.

nehring waterThe Delta tunnel project I think is a moving target. And I know it’s very very important to a lot of people. But a couple things where we can be clear: we need more above ground storage and we need radical activists on the left to drop their opposition to more above ground storage. And we have to figure out what the best conveyance looks like and to bring down the cost of electricity to make desalination costs more reasonable.

California policies based on radical environmentalism

A.B. 32 should be repealed outright for a number of different good reasons. It turns out that none of the premises on which it is based are real.

We were told there would be a whole bunch of other states of that would go along with its the AB 32 carbon cap and trade scheme. Secondly it’s based on the premise that California either singularly or in cooperation with other people is going be able to in to have significant impact on the climate and it’s clear that that is not the case.

So AB 32 turns into just another tax and Californians are already among the highest taxed people in America. A.B. 32 simply doesn’t do what it purports to do and is increasingly becoming an undue burden on California that is making it harder for families to make ends meet and that’s not fair.

It’s not fair particularly to those families that don’t live along the coast, that are more dependent upon heat and an air-conditioning. It’s one thing if you’re living near the ocean, but if you live in Fresno, then yeah, chances are you don’t make as much money and you’re more dependent upon upon energy in order to sustain quality of life.

AB 32 should be repealed and we should move away from all the renewable portfolio standards which is basically requirement by the state to the power companies to buy more expensive energy instead of less expensive energy, that artificially drives up energy prices.

This artificial increase in energy costs is a reason commodity prices go up, which means now the price of food as well as energy prices are going up which further puts the squeeze on the middle and lower class families because of AB 32.

State and Federal Debt

We have a serious problem with this national debt. So many people are confused. The deficit is the year-to-year amount by which the federal government expense is more than it takes in. The national debt is the accumulation of all of these budget deficits year to year which have grown to over $17 trillion.

The danger is that what we’ve seen with other governments in the past is that, knowing that they can’t pay this debt they devalue the currency by printing more money to, in relative terms, lower the amount of the debt. But what you are also doing is lowering the value of individuals pension funds and savings.

Instead of making America more competitive, we’ve produced an artificial bull market which will last for a short period of time before the effect wears off, and that’s a very dangerous path to be on.

While I’m not running for federal office I believe we need to bring down the debt. We need to move in the direction of reforming entitlements. We need the federal government budget deficit to come down to zero, and then we need to start running budgets at a surplus. The U.S. has to maintain sound monetary policy!

If you look around the world, look at what the ingredients are for success in an economy. The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom is a great place to look, because it lists the components that make up what a prescription for economic success looks like: free labor markets, a sound regulatory policy, low, predictable taxes; freedom from corruption, a sound judicial system, free trade, and a sound monetary policy. We cannot have a currency that is continually diminishing in value.

Prop 98, and Education funding

California has a cryptic, for lack of a better term, “mechanism” for funding its schools. On the one hand we have mandates that 40% or so of the state budget go to schools. But this takes so much from the General Fund that it is a scramble to fund all the other needs. I think that there are so many areas for reform. California ought to provide school districts with greater flexibility in how they spend the money they’re already getting. What happens right now is the state gives the school district money and then attaches a lot of strings that forces school districts to spend some of that money in inefficient ways.

I’ll give you an example in a law signed by Gray Davis. In effect it makes it financially impossible for school districts to contract out for non-instructional services like transportation for the kids, like landscaping, cafeteria workers in the lunch room. There is no reason why bus drivers and cafeteria workers and the guy who mows the lawn have to be unionized government workers.

School districts should have the freedom to make those decisions. Yet Gray Davis signed this law as a giveaway to one of the unions because they were concerned that some district might actually hire a non-unionized landscaping company.

This is an example of the state mandating wasteful spending on the part of the school districts. So I think this is a starting point. Even in the collective bargaining process at the school district level is unevenly biased in favor of one side which is the union representing the teachers against the district.

Redevelopment

I think that redevelopment in California has a mixed history. In San Diego under Pete Wilson redevelopment was used very effectively, but in there are plenty of instances where it was not used effectively or honestly.

I think the motivation to do away with redevelopment was in the context of Governor Brown’s first budget. It was a cash grab and these municipal redevelopment agencies had money the Democrats wanted to get. So vast amounts of money was transferred from local communities where it was working fro communities and was poured into the black hole of Sacramento. So we should keep that in mind.

From a matter of principle, whatever form redevelopment in California takes in the future it should not result in the abuse of eminent domain powers. We should get the state out of the business of trying to micromanage local land use policy.

Particularly loathsome are the myriad questionable policies stemming from AB 32 that contends the State must implement social engineering to force people to live in high density condos and to make it cost prohibitive to live in single-family homes under the pretense that such policies will halt climate change. This is pure nonsense. AB 32 and its successor implementing legislation is simply a ruse and has been a mechanism to achieve other objectives.

So I think there are positive aspects of redevelopment that we should look to, for instance, keeping locally generated tax dollars local is beneficial, but not the crony capitalism and abuse of eminent domain.

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