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State Senate, 14th District: Republican candidates

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Posted: Wednesday, June 2, 2010 12:00 am

Four Republicans are competing in the June 8 primary. The winner will be a strong favorite going into the November general election, as the 14th State Senate district tilts heavily Republican.

The district sprawls from Lodi into the Sierra foothills and down to Fresno and Clovis. It includes all of Mariposa and Tuolumne counties and portions of Fresno, Madera, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. Here are the candidates' responses to questions from the News-Sentinel:

What specific state departments or agencies would you eliminate or reduce to balance the budget, and why?

Tom Berryhill

A quick glance at the State Directory shows well in excess of 200 agencies, many of which are duplicative or just plain unnecessary. Examples include State Summer School for the Arts, Employee Parking Information, African-American Museum, and the California Arts Council. Examples of duplicative agencies/departments include Department of Aging and Commission on Aging, Department of Education and the Office of the Secretary of Education, the Board of Equalization and the Franchise Tax Board. These are examples of the numerous unnecessary and duplicative agencies/departments which should be eliminated or merged.

Tim Campi

I don't think I'd say eliminating committees and agencies; I would combine the redundancy into a single agency. The list is very long, but to name a few:

California Commission on Aging, The Department of Aging. We could roll this into one.

Department of Alcohol and drug programs, Alcoholic Beverage Control Appeals Board, Department of Alcohol Beverage Control. Why do we need three?

My favorite is the Acupuncture Board. I'm sure there was a need. We could roll it into a medical board.

Bret De St. Jeor

The problem isn't simply which departments should be reduced, as the entire system of state budgeting needs to be replaced. In the current budget game, department heads start off with the previous year's budget and then begin to pad it out to create a higher "base," and then propose phony cuts to programs that legislators don't have the courage to implement. When the base budget numbers are lies, any changes based on those numbers are also lies. We need a system of "Budgeting for Outcomes" like that offered by the Reason Foundation, which completely changes the priorities of state spending.

Heidi Fuller

We need to quit regulating areas that don't need regulating. I'd propose we bring $5 BILLION into the state coffers immediately by LOWERING car registrating fees 25 percent and register only every TWO years. Also reduce the number of DMV employees at the same time, since we will need fewer employees. This can be duplicated across the board. The state could turn over the 50-plus fairgrounds to the counties and lease them to organizations such as 4H and FFA to run the agricultural fairs because the state should not be in the business of running fairs and festivals.

Tom Marsella

As senator, I would push for cutting ALL agencies and departments equally to the respective budget shortfalls each year. If we are short 5 percent, then we cut back 5 percent. No exceptions, no deals. We didn't get into this shortfall overnight. Our weak legislators got us into this mess because they mostly care about retaining their political seat rather than fiscal responsibility. Totally unacceptable. Start cutting back all agencies in an equal percentage now, just as one would in their own personal family cutbacks. Increasing college tuitions 30 percent in 2009 was unacceptable and inexcusable. Use the initiative process to get our priorities right, just as Mike Reynolds did with his Three Strikes. Mike Reynolds endorses Tom Marsella. Why the above? Because it is the only fiscally responsible approach. Don't mix politics with financial strategy any more than you wold mix soap with water to make it cleaner to drink.

How do you propose controlling long-term state employee pension costs?

Tom Berryhill

California must renegotiate pension deals for all new hires to reign in costs and control the overly generous pension given to state workers.

Tim Campi

Right now, the state employee pension system is under water by hundreds of millions of dollars, so I believe the system can work, just that the investment strategies have to be made more robust. If the people in charge can't do it, they need to find someone who can.

Bret De St. Jeor

The state's system of lavish retirement and medical benefits is far greater than comparable private sector plans, and when the state's pension fund doesn't have money to pay for those benefits, the taxpayers are forced to pay. Legislators have bought the union's favors by providing those benefits, and we must now demand Senate Bill 919 as a first step in restoring sanity to the system. Conservative leaders must also refuse to vote for a state budget if the pension nightmare is not dealt with, since in the next decade it will become impossible to craft an honest state budget otherwise.

Heidi Fuller

This is a critical problem for all states. Many current state workers are at a time in their lives when they cannot make alternative plans for retirement, so we need to start off new state workers at a much lower level for retirement benefits. Pensions must be based on base pay only, the vesting period needs to be extended, and the age of retirement must be increased. Finally, state wages MUST be tied to private sector wages. By law, the average public sector salary must be no more than the average private sector full-time salary.

Tom Marsella

Eliminate defined benefit pension retirement plans and replace with a 401(k) option. Morgan Stanley did it with their pension plan. There are very solid NYSE stocks such as AT&T and Verizon, for example, both paying over 6 percent dividends, which would be reasonable options. Those two firms are not going to change over the next decades and will outlast most banks. There are many others. Return the pension options to the free enterprise sector of America, and avoid banks and union influences. Complete the balance with annuities, which, by the way, are secured with 100 percent of assets as required by federal law. My 35 years of experience in this field is very valuable, unlike any of the other candidates who have little experience with money management or pension and retirement planning.

How would you reform public education — and what role, if any, do you see charter schools playing in that process?

Tom Berryhill

We must promote competition through school choice — allowing parents to remove their children from failing schools and enroll them in other districts, and expand charter schools. Merit pay and teacher standards and accountability will improve performance and reduce costs.

Tim Campi

Our public education is out of control. We need to get the monies to the classroom and out of the bureaucracy. I would suggest cutting salaries of administrators and downsizing administrative staffs. Charter schools are a good idea and play a major role, and are cheaper to run and maintain. The competitions between the government-run school and charter school will force the public schools to teach.

Bret De St. Jeor

The greatest problem faced in our public education system is in getting the billions of dollars that we spend every year on education in this state out of the hands of bureaucrats and into our children's classrooms. Classroom-based budgeting, a process where spending is focused on the classroom, would require that the administrators and bureaucrats who take money from education and give little in return would have to justify their existence every year to continue receiving a paycheck. Charter schools are a necessary tool in this process, creating competition and new ideas that challenge our education system to perform.

Heidi Fuller

I would like to see a constitutional amendment removing control of schools from the state and giving it to the counties along with the funding. The counties are far more responsive to parents, and should be able to set standards and operate their schools independent from the state. The counties should choose the books, set standards for teachers and take full responsibility. Communities as a whole will be more interested in keeping up the standards for the school because the counties will be competing. I support charter schools and home-school families, and believe that they must be protected and encouraged.

Tom Marsella

The top California budget expense should be education, NOT prisons. Return the education system to the local school districts away from the federal government. What works in Los Angeles does not apply to Lodi. Charter schools and vouchers would be the desired application, and replace tenure with performance incentives. Put a cap on college tuitions not to exceed the state GDP. Consider experimenting with a privately funded (not public) monetary incentive plan for high school students based on attendance and grades. Education is the best investment in California's future, so let's treat it as such. Government plans have failed. Return it to the people, for it is their children, not the government's.

What is your take on the Arizona immigration law?

Tom Berryhill

Arizona acted well within their rights to enforce their borders and do the job the federal government has failed to do. We must have secure borders and know who is entering our country. It is a matter of national security. This is about ILLEGAL activity, which must be stopped.

Tim Campi

I haven't read the bill, but what I've heard, I'm all for it. California has laws on the books that if you hire an illegal, there are penalties associated with your action. I will have these laws enforced; cities that break the law knowing fully the are breaking the law will have funding cut, and if you're here illegally and you get busted, you're out.

Bret De St. Jeor

As a successful businessman, I understand that economics is all about understanding both supply and demand, and the problem of illegal immigration is no different. We have in the past attempted to deal with the "supply" part of this problem by going after illegal workers themselves, with very limited success. The most useful tool of the Arizona law is reducing the demand for illegal workers by dramatically increasing penalties for firms that hire them. This encourages firms to hire legal workers instead of illegal ones. Without the prospect of jobs, there is far less incentive to illegally cross the border.

Heidi Fuller

I am pro LEGAL immigration, but I am strongly in favor of preventing ILLEGAL immigration and enforcing our borders. If the feds won't enforce the borders, we have an absolute right to follow Arizona's lead and enact the same laws. We must enforce laws against businesses that are hiring illegals. Although, businesses need to be relieved of some of the employment regulations so that they will be less tempted to hire illegals for short-term and seasonal work. This is especially important for young people who are not getting proper work experience due to the lack of entry-level jobs.

Tom Marsella

Though not law yet, I do support it 100 percent. Again, the federal government has failed. The lawless immigrants and Mexican drug cartels are killing U.S. citizens and draining our economy. NO amnesty at all for any. Not only are illegals entering the U.S., but foreign citizens who hate America, are entering also. WE ARE AT WAR. Treat Mexican immigrants the same as Mexico treats foreign immigrants. Return illegal immigrant prisoners back to their native countries. We must secure our borders now, even if it means using military force. The laws are on the books; we just need to enforce them. A top priority as a senator: one language, one flag.

In what professional area do you most need to grow or improve?

Tom Berryhill

Time management. I work very hard every day to accomplish my many goals, and time tends to slip away from me rather quickly.

Tim Campi

I don't have all the answers but I'll do my best to get them.

Bret De St. Jeor

I regret not getting more involved in the political process sooner. I believe I could have helped prevent the state budget mess. California needs elected leaders who lead and will make difficult decisions in getting California back on track. I hope the people vote out the incumbents in Sacramento who created this budget mess and force those politicians to go find a job in this economy they created. I am not a politician; I not a lawyer. I am business owner who knows how to operate businesses within budget, and I know how to may difficult choices. Go to www.HelpBret.com.

Heidi Fuller

I am well-educated and have a broad background of experience, so I feel confident that I am well-prepared to best represent the 14th District. The Legislature enacts our laws, and the Republicans only have one lawyer in the Legislature who will be gone after this year. It's a handicap because the members must rely on lobbyists for advice. The Democrats, on the other hand, are 30 percent lawyers. We need a mix in the legislature for strong representation, and I believe that I can bring the legal expertise to the Republican representation in the Legislature.

Tom Marsella

I've learned some good lessons through the years. One is to be early to an appointment.It is fun meeting other early people, and I have never felt that I wasted any time. Also, a good time to reflect and "slow down" to smell the roses. Things always look different when I am early and unstressed. I actually see things I never saw before when I was barely "on time." You have a chance to get to know people better.

About the candidates

Tom Berryhill

— Assembly member, farmer.

— Attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

— Married with two daughters.

Tim Campi

— Tech staff member, New Hope Church

— Attended Chico State University.

— Married with two children, Destiny, 22, and Nick, 19.

Bret De St. Jeor

— Business owner/entrepreneur.

— Bachelor's in international business, University of Utah; certificate in Mandarin Chinese, University of Taiwan.

— Married to Andrea with two sons, Sterling, 13, and Thomas, 8.

Heidi Fuller

— Consultant for utility companies, former Arabic linguist, U.S. Air Force.

— Graduate of UCLA with degree in history; law degree, George Washington University.

— Married with one daughter.

Tom Marsella

— Investment advisor-consultant.

— Graduate of Fresno State University in business administration/economics; previously attended UC Berkeley.

— Three adult sons, Cary, Darin and Mark.

This story was updated at 5:30 a.m. June 2, 2010, to include the responses from Tim Campi, which were inadvertently not included when first published Saturday.

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