Sen. Ted Gaines flips a mean pancake, as the full house at the Elks Lodge in Quincy saw at a special annual community leaders breakfast sponsored by Gaines on Sept. 27.
Gaines, representing Senate District 1, is a small-business owner and father of six residing in Placer County. He shared accomplishments and concerns with constituents.
First, he acknowledged a few things the Senate had gotten done, such as workers’ compensation reform in terms of pay cuts in permanent disability, which he called, “a fair and right thing to do.”
There was some pension reform, Gaines said, but not enough. The 7.25 percent rate of return comes out of taxpayer pockets. Gaines explained that the rate is higher than the interest earned, therefore is draining state coffers. Further reforms must be enacted, Gaines said.
Senate Bill 1186, co-sponsored by Gaines, aims to rein in ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) abusive lawsuits. It passed the Senate 36-0 and is now before the Assembly.
The bill gives business owners 30 days to rectify a violation and eliminates the demand-for-settlement letter without first filing a complaint in court.
Although a step in the right direction, Gaines said reform measures did not go far enough.
Tax and regulatory reform is a top priority for the senator. Gaines said he is fearful for the state’s economy, which shows an unemployment rate of more than 10 percent.
He reported that 260 businesses pulled up stakes last year for greener pastures across state borders.
Gaines said tax and other legislative regulations make it hard for business owners to succeed in California.
“If we’re not taking care of folks,” Gaines said, “they’ll leave. People are not wanting to live here because they can’t find jobs.”
Gaines told the crowded assembly that his own college-graduate daughter cannot find a job.
“They’re paying $15 an hour to work at Denny’s in Texas,” he said. According to Gaines, Texas and North Dakota are two states that can’t find enough people to work. He said businesses in those states face fewer regulations to comply with.
Gaines spoke about a successful effort in British Columbia that streamlined and reduced regulations by 42 percent.
He said a staggering 165,000 regulations in British Columbia were slashed, a reduction that created a more favorable business climate for the province.
Gaines is partnering with the bipartisan Small Business Economic Impact Alliance to introduce similar legislation in California.
Gaines advises pay fire fee
As for the fire fee that is hurting rural and mountainous communities like Plumas and Sierra counties, Gaines is continuing the fight against it.
He co-sponsored a piece of legislation that would repeal the fire fee, but could not collect the necessary signatures to put it on the ballot.
On Aug. 13, the state began mailing “fire fee” bills to property owners, alphabetically by county.
Gaines suggested that constituents pay the fee, as the penalties for not paying are very steep — 20 percent per month — and can involve attaching a lien on a noncompliant taxpayer’s property.
Gaines went on to support Howard Jarvis, who is looking at filing a class action suit against the fire fee, once damage to taxpayers has been established.
Gaines spoke about recent legislation restricting the use of hounds in bear hunts. He said that ruling has hurt northern California and rural communities.
High Speed Rail
Although the Senate voted to allocate $8 billion in July for the $100 billion high-speed rail project that would link northern and southern California via a three-hour train ride at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour, Gaines voted against it, he told the audience.
Gaines called the appropriation fiscally irresponsible. He said what the people need are improved roads and ports.
Constituents took advantage of a question and answer session to hear Gaines’ response to their concerns.
Prop 30 and School Funds
Plumas Unified School District board member Bob Tuerck asked how Gaines felt Proposition 30 would be received at the polls and whether or not Gov. Jerry Brown would enact triggers if the measure failed.
Gaines replied that he is against tax fixes. Why tax the top tax ratepayers more, he asked, and drive them out of California?
Gaines said he did not think the proposition would pass. Moreover, he believed that Brown did have the moxie to make proposed trigger cuts.
He suggested that budgets should be made under the assumption that the money is not there.
Gaines recognizes that rural schools are suffering greatly, but believes raising taxes is not the answer.
Economy a Train Wreck “It’s a train wreck,” Gaines said of the state’s economy, “a slow moving train wreck.”
He said we need reform to solve the crisis, starting with our tax code. We need to look at every department, Gaines said.
“What’s happening in Greece could happen here,” Gaines said about the collapse of Greece’s economy.
He mentioned the necessity for welfare reform and a new mindset.
People would rather collect welfare than work for $10 an hour, Gaines said. There is no incentive to work when they can earn the same money on welfare.
Gaines used CalPERS as another example of where change has to happen.
People live longer nowadays, which means benefits are paid out longer, Gaines said. Therefore, “people will have to work longer.”
Stan Hardeman, superintendent at Sierra County Office of Education, thanked Gaines for his help in securing funds for a new roof for Loyalton High School.
Hardeman stated that without Gaines’ help, “we would probably go into receivership next year. Frankly, folks, schools are going broke.”
Plumas County tourism Quincy Chamber of Commerce president and business owner Jeanne Brovelli asked Gaines to address the region’s tourism industry. Brovelli called tourism one of the main industries in our area.
Gaines agreed that Plumas County is beautiful, and that the success of Graeagle is a good model for local tourism.
He told Brovelli that forming a tourism district was a step on the right track. Gaines mentioned foreign tourists visiting places like Mono Lake and Bodie, which are off the beaten path.
He said it shows you can draw people from all over the world to any area with the right tactics, and advised Brovelli to contact his office to learn what other chambers have done to successfully promote tourism.
Feather River College (FRC) representative Karen Pierson is also concerned about Prop. 30 and its effect on the college.
She spoke of how much vitality FRC brings to Plumas County and Quincy, and wondered how an additional 7 percent cut, on top of the 12 percent already suffered, will affect the school and the community.
Gaines answered that we have to go back to reforming educational services, that what California needs is a paradigm shift. He gave the state of Wisconsin as an example of that.
Prison realignment plan Supervisor Lori Simpson told Gaines that Assembly Bill 109, the California prison realignment plan, is really impacting Plumas County.
She appealed to Sheriff Greg Hagwood to elaborate on the county’s need for a new jail.
Hagwood obliged, saying that Plumas County’s jail is 25-years outdated, and that the county is operating under a consent decree.
He said if the county had a million dollars in matching funds, plans to build an efficient and contemporary jail could begin, and would double the current bed capacity and meet state regulations.
But the money isn’t there, Hagwood said.
“The jail is full and we are turning people out into the community with ankle monitors,” Hagwood said. “We are putting ourselves in position for enhanced problems.”
Gaines agreed and said California is seeing more brazen crime and more homeless people.
Hagwood said the county needs to focus more on industries that can generate county revenue, such as logging, timber and mining.
Those industries “had the county’s economy churning along,” Hagwood said.
Gaines agreed that logging and timber could be better managed.
It “might even stop so much growth of marijuana in our forests,” Gaines said.
Simpson brought up the recent scandal of millions of dollars in state park money found squirreled away in the state’s coffers.
She said the people are angry and they wonder what other pots of money are hidden away.
Gaines said that he is trying to shine the light and make sure government is as transparent as possible.
“I’m there to hold people accountable,” Gaines said.
200 jobs at Herlong Depot In closing, Gaines called on Lt. Col. Christopher Dexter of Sierra Army Depot in Herlong to talk about the 200 jobs the depot has generated due to troops pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Dexter stressed that these are temporary jobs only. The depot will be recycling and refurbishing a lot of military hardware from overseas.
In addition, although another 50 to 100 jobs are expected to be offered in the next two years, Dexter emphasized that they are just temporary.
An audience member wanted to know what would happen to the returning troops. Would they get hired for those jobs, or other military jobs?
Dexter replied that the Army is currently in a decision-making process to determine whether to downsize or not.
That decision will impact returning troops’ ability to re-enlist.
Gaines closed the breakfast meeting by acknowledging that our economy is growing at half the rate it should grow. He thanked community leaders for attending and encouraged people to contact his office at email@example.com.
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