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State Senate Candidates Stoker, Jackson Make Their Pitch to Goleta Chamber

19th District opponents express differing ideas on pension and regulatory reform, and how best to improve California’s business climate

State Senate candidates Hannah-Beth Jackson and Mike Stoker made their cases to the business community on Tuesday at a forum sponsored by the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Both have political experience — as a state Assembly member and county supervisor, respectively — and roots in the private sector as attorneys.

Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce President Kristen Miller said members will meet later this week to discuss endorsing one of the candidates.

The two 19th District candidates have very different ideas about what needs to be done to deal with California’s budget deficit, including opposite stances on Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30.

Jackson said she wholeheartedly supports it, adding that the state needs more jobs and a well-trained workforce to fill them, and Proposition 30 is essential to support education and infrastructure. If it fails, she said, there would be cuts across the board.

If cuts are necessary, Stoker argued, they should be made at the state level, not in the counties, cities and schools that have already weathered millions of dollars in cuts. He suggested that the thousands of state agencies could be consolidated to help turn the budget deficit around.

“A lot of what happened is self-inflicted in Sacramento,” Stoker said. “I believe we have more of a spending problem than a revenue problem.”

Fielding questions from the audience and speaking about their platforms, each candidate touched on pension reform, regulatory reform and bettering California’s business climate.

Although the event wasn’t billed as a debate, and the candidates weren’t supposed to respond to each other’s comments, some exchanges got heated.

Jackson said Stoker “vilified” public employees, and that they shouldn’t receive the blame for circumstances they didn’t create.

Stoker retaliated, saying state employees are no more or less important than anyone else. He added that the state needs to cut its labor force more equally to what has been done on a local level, with pension reform far more wide-reaching than the proposal signed by Gov. Brown.

Jackson has received the support of several public employee unions, and when asked about it, she called Brown’s pension reform plan a fair one. She said it would make employees contribute more to their own retirements, get rid of “spiking” benefits payouts and eliminate pension payments to convicted felons.

Stoker disagreed, saying the plan doesn’t go nearly far enough. Local governments have made huge cuts, and the state’s labor force hasn’t been touched, which shows the “power of unions,” he said.

For regulatory reform, Stoker recommended first looking at laws California has that no other state does. He said the tax structure is pushing many businesses away, when the state should be fostering a business-friendly climate.

Jackson said California always likes to be first — especially with environmental regulations — which is why it’s alone in some laws, but that regulations can be re-evaluated. She said that if policies aren’t meeting their original intent or are ineffective, they should be adjusted or eliminated.

On a local level, Jackson said Santa Barbara County itself is “notorious” for red tape and that many processes should be streamlined.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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