The Latino Times
With only a few weeks left before Election Day, Republican Assemblyman Bill Berryhill discussed a wide range of issues on the minds of voters. Berryhill seeks to represent California’s 5th Senate District, the majority of which is located in San Joaquin County. His opponent is Democratic Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani.
Latino Times: As you have been meeting people throughout the district, what have emerged as the issues that seem to resonate most deeply with voters?
Bill Berryhill: Crime has really been front and center all through the Valley, and especially in Stockton, with the early release of offenders that was forced on local communities. My opponents will argue that they had no choice, but that’s simply not true. … There were other options, and this early release plan has been a disaster. We shouldn’t have to live in fear in this society.
Jobs, of course, are always a big part of the conversation. How do we get this economy going again? We can’t just keep doing what we’ve been doing and expect to have a different outcome. We’re running businesses out of the state. … We should be trying to set policies that actually attract businesses and give them some kind of certainty that the rug’s not going to pulled out from under them … We need to do a lot more work on the regulatory front.
With regard to education funding, we have enough money to do anything we want, but not everything we want. (Politicians) are holding our kids hostage by cutting funding and threatening further cuts. That is a morally twisted strategy. … I understand why people in the education community support those taxes (Prop. 30 and Prop. 38). But without a spending cap, this legislature will spend that money, and we’ll be in the same spot another year from now.
LT: Water policy is likely to remain a major issue in the years to come. What strategy would you pursue to protect our region’s environmental and economic interests when it comes to water?
BB: As a Delta farmer, I don’t want to see the tunnels built (Under a plan supported by Gov. Jerry Brown, water would be piped from the Sierra to San Joaquin Valley Farms and cities in Southern California, while less water would come through the Delta). But also as a farmer, and understanding the economy, I’m not just saying, ‘No.’ … I’m saying the tunnels are not the only solution. I don’t want to do this in a way that’s going to destroy our whole region. The cost of the tunnels is going to be prohibitive. I think (the tunnel plan) is a big boondoggle, as big a boondoggle as high-speed rail.
LT: Where do you see potential for job growth in the Valley? What are the obstacles to leveraging that potential?
BB: We’ve lost so many manufacturing jobs in the Valley. Should we investigate tax breaks for manufacturers? I think so… We also need to get our arms around burdensome regulations. We went and interviewed 20 businesses that left California for Nevada. They told us, ‘It’s not the taxes that drove us out, it’s not necessarily the regulations. It’s the attitude of the regulators that just gets old and eventually breaks you down.’ We’ve got to change that. The fines and fees that regulatory agencies charge, that money should go back into the general fund. That would be the oversight that we’re lacking. Instead, the more the regulators fine, the more they grow, the more police powers they have.
LT: Although you declined to sign the no-new-tax pledge, you also have said that raising taxes through Prop. 30 is not the best course for Californians. How, then, do you propose to fund services such as education and law enforcement?
BB: At the end of the day, the best way out of this thing is to grow our way out. What I’m afraid will happen is that there’s nothing more mobile than a millionaire and his money; we’re going to lose more of our top income earners to other states. For me, that’s not an option – I’m a grape grower. But there are a lot of those taxpayers that can move their businesses out of state. We need to improve our job climate here through regulatory relief. Ultimately, we need a broader base of taxpayers in California. That means more people working. There’s no better social program than a job.
It takes a lot of years to get into these problems, but I do believe that with the right policies in place, California can turn around pretty quick.
LT: What have you learned about collaboration during your time in the legislature?
BB: Especially if you’re in the minority party, you better collaborate pretty well. I’ve always done that pretty well. Coming from a school board, it’s non-partisan – it’s problem-solving. I’ve managed to work with … very liberal members of the legislature. If we can work together, anybody can. I’ve worked very closely with Lois Wolk (D-Davis). We don’t agree on 70 to 80 percent of the issues, but we do agree on water, and we work very diligently together on that cause. … You have to collaborate with the other side. If you sign that tax pledge, while it may make your job very easy, you’re not at the table for anything. Our constituents in the Valley need their representatives at the table.
The Latino Times