by Andrew Ysiano
A fourth-generation Californian, farmer Bill Berryhill is completing his second term in the State Assembly. The Stockton Republican now seeks to represent California’s 5th Senate District – which includes all of San Joaquin County, Galt and parts of northern Stanislaus County. Also vying for the seat are Democratic Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani and San Joaquin County Supervisor Leroy Ornellas. In a conversation with Latino Times, Berryhill, joined by wife Triana Perez Berryhill, discussed education, the Delta, high-speed rail and the values he shares with the Valley’s Latino community.
LATINO TIMES: Why are you running for this seat?
BERRYHILL: As the father of three kids – I’ve got two in college, I’ll have a third one in college pretty soon – I’d like to think that when they get out of college, that there’s going to be opportunity here in California to find a job. …I always say, I don’t want to have to visit my grandkids someday in Kansas because that’s the only place my kids could find a job.
LATINO TIMES: A lot of the Latino community don’t know that you’re married to a Latina. Tell us about that.
BERRYHILL: When we met and I was dating her, her values were very important. Her belief in being a really good mom and going to the classroom and being engaged in the schools and church and all those things.
TRIANA PEREZ BERRYHILL: One of the things you see more in this culture – and I hope we don’t lose it – is that a Latin woman would do anything for her children, for her husband. We seem to be more selfless. I hope that stays with us.
LATINO TIMES: So many taxes are going out… What about the small business person, the entrepreneurs?
BERRYHILL: We’ve always been a very generous state, and that’s all well and good if you’ve got the money. But right now, we need to face reality and live within our means, and I don’t think we can keep cutting schools. I don’t think we can keep cutting law enforcement. We need to be looking at how we can get people back to work, and the way I believe you do that is create a climate where businesses want to come to California, not a climate where they want to leave. … You do that by going after the regulatory burdens that we place on business. Not get rid of the regulations, but try to make them more reasonable, more business-friendly, more competitive with other states.
LATINO TIMES: Let’s talk about the Dream Act. That’s been a big issue, a hot-button issue.
BERRYHILL: I get that we’ve invested in these kids, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I get that they didn’t come here on their own, they were little kids, and they’ve been brought up through the system. For all they know, they’re American citizens, and then they want to access college. The bottom line, though, is that you sit there and go, ‘How do I hire them?’ I can’t legally hire them without paying a fine or being thrown in jail. So let’s get our immigration policy reformed, and then let’s look at that. … Otherwise we’re spending limited resources that we don’t have on students who are going to have to go back to their own country.
LATINO TIMES: Another educational issue would be the Cal-Grant issue.
BERRYHILL: It’s very important, and we need to maintain them, but again, it’s like everything up in Sacramento. With our budget deficit being what it is, they’re looking at making cuts everywhere they can. …It’s about priorities, and if education and law enforcement is our priority, then by golly, let’s fund it. If social service and the safety net is a priority, then we should also fund that. But to me, education and law enforcement are primary responsibilities of our government.
LATINO TIMES: Everybody’s trying to steal our water, especially Los Angeles.
BERRYHILL: The water war is never going to end unless we work together, and that means Southern California interests and Delta interests. We’re not about ‘no,’ we’re about ‘how.’ I presented a plan, a new water plan, that picks up 2 million acre feet of storage. … It’s a pretty good plan. It needs to be studied. … I went to every member on that committee. I actually brought them to my office, one or two at a time, and went though the plan with them, and guess what? We got out of committee on a 7-2 or 3 vote. … I’ve got good relations with the members. I get along with all of them very well. A lot of respect with both sides of the aisle, so we’re able to have these conversations. … I told the voters when I first ran, ‘Over my dead body are they going to build that canal,’ and I hope I don’t have to lay in front of the Caterpillar.
LATINO TIMES: One of your opponent’s issues has been this bullet train. … What’s your position?
BERRYHILL: It’s an extremely expensive project … at a time when the state is reeling in debt. The governor has talked about the wall of debt and how big it’s gotten in California. Now, do we really want to tack on more debt? Secondly, I think … the government should probably not be in the train business. There’s one bullet train around the world that actually makes money, and that’s in Japan. The rest of them are all subsidized by the government. So I have to ask the question, assuming that probably ends up our case and we have to subsidize it, where’s that money going to come from to subsidize it? We may get it built and there may be some private dollars that go in. There may be some federal dollars. But at the end of the day, if that train doesn’t make money, the California general fund is going to have to subsidize it. … That’s going to come out of our classrooms. That’s going to come out of law enforcement. That’s going to come out of social services. … If we’re going to do something with mass transit, it seems to me to make more sense to go east-west. Let’s bring the Bay Area down to the Valley. Let’s get access easier and faster over to the Bay Area. There’s already a BART system that’s a pretty darn good system. Let’s expand that. … North-south, you can fly so cheap, and this train is not going to be that cheap. It’s not going to compete with the airlines, so I’m very opposed to it.
LATINO TIMES: What do you have to say to our Latino voters out there?
BERRYHILL: I think we share very much the same values. I think we share the idea that education is very important, and it’s how our kids will do better than we are. … The Latino community is such an entrepreneurial-minded community, and, quite frankly, California, with everything we’re doing to small business, it’s killing that spirit that made California a great state, and a great place to do business. … The Latino community, they’ve got that spirit of small business and I get that. I share their thinking, and I think I can do a good job for them – give them that chance to buy that home and get their kids educated and have a good job or start up a business.
It’s frustrating with the Republican party because we have not really reached out. And maybe it’s just that I’ve grown up around the Hispanic community my whole life … I don’t know what the problem is. To me, it’s a natural. I think they think more like I do than they do the Democrats.
by Andrew Ysiano