County League of Women Voters Hosts State Senator Jackson
By Tim Pompey
The Ventura County League of Women Voters hosted a luncheon on Saturday, June 14 at the Courtyard Marriott in Oxnard which featured State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson speaking on the topic “Income Equality: Breaking Down Barriers to the California Dream.”
It’s a topic that, according to LWVVC president Barbara Doyle, was a convergence of minds at different times and in different places. “Most recently, it was the topic that several leagues throughout the country brought up on the floor of the national LWV in Dallas,” said Doyle. “But it was also Senator Jackson herself who chose this topic.”
Jackson was invited because Doyle believes her political views fit well with members’ current interest in the legislative agenda that she has sponsored over the last few years. “The thing we were interested in was her legislative updates when she talked about the bills she had presented. That was the reason why we wanted to bring her in.”
If a direct approach was what the LWV members hoped for, Jackson did not disappoint. Speaking on a wide range of topics, she integrated the subject of income inequality with her own optimistic plans for proposed legislation.
Addressing some of the causes for the current income gap, Jackson pointed to a large increase in college debt, the inability of workers to afford housing, and most important, the dramatic widening of the income gap between CEOs and workers (290-300 times the pay scale of their workers in 2013). This in addition to the dramatic decrease in executive tax rates (lowered to 15% for the top 1%) and the flattening wage scale for the average worker.
These flat wages mean that Californians must work harder to find suitable housing, pay increased medical costs, and deal with more personal debt. For people who must cope with these current economic realities, Jackson concluded that “there is something fundamentally wrong with this picture.”
The income gap has also had a political impact, especially in voter interest and confidence. Jackson believes that income inequality has caused more polarization between the haves and the have nots. “The real problem,” she stated, “is that not only do voters believe their votes don’t count, but their votes don’t matter. Looking at the $227 million that corporations have recently spent lobbying congress, that is the problem.”
What Jackson hopes to encourage at the state level, particularly in terms of jobs and job growth, is an increase in business innovation. On that count, Jackson asserts, being headquartered in California is a distinct advantage. “When you talk to all of the key innovators about why they’re located in California,” she explained, “they’ll tell you that this is where the talent is.”
In terms of her own work at the state level, Jackson called her approach the JEDI approach (jobs and economic development initiative). Calling her current district an “innovation corridor,” she described the Central Coast as a “home of unlimited possibilities.”
Some of her constituents in this district include Amgen, Cal State Channel Islands, Ventura County’s three community colleges, the University of California Santa Barbara, and Elon Musk and his plans to fly rockets at Vandenberg Air Force Base. She compared the potential synergy in her district to the cooperative effort between high-tech companies in the Silicon Valley.
As a part of her own legislative vision, Jackson has been working on a series of bills which include: 1) a dramatic change in the way the state funds schools, including increased funding for early childhood education; 2) a reorienting of school curriculums to include what is termed “common core” in order to emphasize more critical thinking in education; and 3) more state-funded grants to identify and help people who are out of work to receive training and placement assistance.
Speaking to the state’s history of innovation, Jackson spoke positively about California’s economic future. Describing California as one of the leaders in cutting edge innovation, she joked, “We want to be first. We don’t care if we get it right, but we want to be first.
Sometimes we soar. Sometimes we go spat. But we pick ourselves up and climb the mountain again.”