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24th Congressional District Candidate Q&A: Katcho Achadjian

[Noozhawk’s note: We invited each of the nine candidates for the 24th District seat in Congress to answer a series of questions about issues of importance to local voters. The responses are being published, three candidates each day in alphabetical order, beginning Saturday. Click here for the complete series index.]

Katcho Achadjian Click to view larger
Katcho Achadjian

Katcho Achadjian, 64, is a Republican businessman who is in his third term in the Assembly representing the 35th District, which includes San Luis Obispo County and parts of northern Santa Barbara County.

Click here for more information about Katcho Achadjian.

Noozhawk: If elected, what specific issue will be your No. 1 priority in Congress?

Katcho Achadjian: Given our national debt of $19 trillion, my priority will be passing a law requiring Congress to work together to pass a balanced, on-time budget in order to receive their paycheck. It’s called “No Budget, No Pay.”

Q: Given the extreme division and polarization in Congress and the nation, what specifically will you do to help break the deadlock?

KA: I believe my history of consensus building, at both the county and state level, will be an excellent start. I will not fall in line with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., simply for the sake of partisanship.

I believe in debating about the issues, reaching across the aisle, and truly compromising to find the best solutions for the people of the Central Coast.

Additionally, I believe withholding paychecks from members of Congress if they cannot reach consensus on a balanced budget, on time, will be a good motivation for working together. See above for my proposal for “No Budget, No Pay.”

Q: How would you describe your political philosophy? Liberal, moderate, conservative, progressive, socialist, libertarian, other? Explain why.

KA: I would describe my political views as moderate. In 2002, the San Luis Obispo Tribune named me as “The Shepherd of Consensus” due to the fact that I was able to work with my fellow colleagues to make the Central Coast a better place.

I took that same mentality to the Assembly and was able to work across aisles to help California climb out of a $26 billion deficit to a projected $4 billion surplus. We were also able to establish a rainy-day fund to ensure we will not have to make those painful cuts ever again.

Ultimately, fighting for the working families and small businesses of the Central Coast is more important to me than any political party.

Q: What personal and work experience prepared you for this job? 

KA: Having owned a small business for 38 years has made me realize how difficult it is to operate in the state of California. I would fight for small-business owners to reduce regulations and lift the burdens of government overreach.

Personally, having immigrated from Lebanon as a young man, I have experienced the devastation of radical terrorism. Two of my grandparents were killed in Turkey during the Armenian Genocide and two more were killed in Lebanon when I was a young boy.

My family lived under the constant threat of persecution for being Christian.

When I immigrated to the United States and earned my citizenship, I learned the true value of being an American. My personal experiences would guide me in Congress to fight to protect the American Dream and the opportunities America provides for those willing to work hard. My personal experiences would also guide me to taking a hard line on radical terrorism.

Q: How well is the United States doing in the area of military preparedness? What, if anything, would you change?

KA: The world has increasingly become a more dangerous place, and the United States has not done enough to establish its presence. With increased radical Islamic terrorism in the Middle East spreading to western Europe, I believe it is imperative that the United States take firm action against these groups before their influence spreads any further.

In Congress, I would support expanding the military and taking hard lines on radical Islamic terrorism overseas.

Q: California will have a $15 minimum wage in a few years. Do you support raising the federal minimum wage, and if so, to what rate?

KA: I do not. Each state has a very different economy, population and workforce. I believe this should be left to each of the states to decide.

Q: Briefly outline your position on climate change. What, if anything, should we as a nation be doing about it?

KA: I do support a federal approach to curb greenhouse gas emission. The problem is in the name, global warming. We must take a global approach to solving this issue.

We cannot just put the sole burden on California or the United States to go alone in the effort. One way we can accomplish this is through trade agreements that put the responsibility on both sides of the agreement.

Q: What changes, if any, would you like to see made in the federal tax code?     

KA: Americans should not have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars each year to hire professionals to file their taxes. The 72,000 pages of the federal tax code should be reduced, simplified and made exponentially easier for everyday Americans to understand.

Send me to Congress and I’ll work diligently to make sure our tax code is simplified.

Q: Share your views on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. What, if anything, would you change?

KA: I would vote to repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act. I believe a major factor will be who is elected president.

Congress is only a piece of the puzzle. If the president is not willing to completely repeal the Affordable Care Act, I would work with my colleagues to find a better solution that will help Americans.

We can replace the Affordable Care Act by bringing more competition to the marketplace. More competition will help drive down prices and ensure insurers are competing to provide us with the best health care.

Q: What changes in abortion law, if any, would you support as a member of Congress?

KA: I am pro-life; I believe that there are limited circumstances where abortion is acceptable in cases where the mother’s life is in danger, rape or incest.

The federal government must do a better job at raising awareness about alternatives to abortion. There are adoption programs and financial assistance options available to new parents. Congress must be the voice for the voiceless.

Q: The debate over immigration and guest-worker programs hits close to home for this district, with ICE raids on Santa Maria-area farm businesses and an alleged arson at a Nipomo farmworker housing complex. What changes, if any, would like to see made in immigration law and enforcement?

KA: I support initiatives like the Bracero or other guest-worker programs to help with the shortage of workers in our agriculture community.

That is the reason why I supported AB 20 (Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, 2015) which would look into establishing a similar program for California, if we could obtain the appropriate license from the federal government.

I do not support amnesty as an option. As a legal immigrant myself who went through the process, I know first-hand the immense pride one feels when they obtain citizenship through the proper channels.

Q: What changes, if any, should be made in federally funded college loan programs?

KA: Student loan debt has exceeded $1.2 trillion, and each student today graduates with approximately $33,000 in debt, on average. This is unacceptable.

I worked many jobs while in college, but the cost of education today has far exceeded the wages a part-time job can provide. The cost of college is putting degrees out of the reach of many students and working families, and student loan debt is making it harder for graduates to achieve their goals once they get a degree.

Currently, one of the best tools for students and families are tax-free 529 college savings plans. These allow families to save for college using pre-tax dollars. But the resources they can actually pay for are limited, and recently President Barack Obama proposed taxing 529 savings accounts.

This is also unacceptable. These accounts need to be protected from taxation and expanded to be able to pay for essential tools a student needs — things like computers and laptops.

I would advocate for expanding 529 savings plans and the continued protection from taxation.

In addition to these expansions and protections, I believe student loans should be interest-free and repayments should not begin until one year after graduation. Additionally, I believe student loans should remain interest-free as long as repayments are consistently made on time.

Q: The Refugio oil spill put a spotlight on federal pipeline safety regulations. What can regulators do to prevent future spills?

Automatic shutoff valves are practically standard now. Last year I took the steps I could at the state level to increase protections of our coastline.

I voted to pass SB 295, which requires annual inspections of interstate pipelines; AB 846, which requires remote leak detectors and automatic shutoff valves; and SB 414, which equips commercial fishermen with tools to help contain leaks in their areas.

In Congress, I would support legislation that requires automatic shutoff valves. It’s a common-sense step to protecting our California coastline and preventing serious oil spills. I would also support penalizing the responsible party if they were aware of the weak spot in the pipeline and ignored it.

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