As he neared the end of his seven-year stint as Speaker, Anthony Rendon sat down last week with PPIC president and CEO Tani Cantil-Sakauye for a wide-ranging conversation that touched on accomplishments, lessons learned, and what might lie ahead.
Rendon sees the redevelopment of the lower Los Angeles River as a key accomplishment—both because it has been transformative for the surrounding community and because it is representative of an overarching focus on the equitable distribution of resources across the state. “I’ve always told the story about flying into LAX my freshman year and seeing the redevelopment to the LA River . . . and then the plane moved over my district and there was nothing there. For me, that’s part of the California story,” he said. “And I think it’s also sort of illustrative of a lot that we’ve done as a state since my class got here in 2012—making sure, whether it was the water bond, the park bond, or transportation efforts, that disadvantaged communities got as much as other parts of the state.”
For Rendon, this focus on equity was a driving force in this year’s challenging budget process. “What we did particularly on childcare is obviously close to home,” said Rendon. “I ran for office because of cuts to early childhood education.” He noted that when he was first elected, “we were 48th or 49th in the country in per pupil spending on education, and we’re in the top 10 now.”
Still, he is concerned about the budget situation over the next few years. “The extent to which we were able to maintain programs and services particularly to vulnerable Californians is great,” he said. “But I’m worried about the future.”
The budget is not the only thing he worries about. When asked what he sees as the top issues going forward, he named climate change and threats to democracy. “I think we really have to focus on the existential questions . . . the future of the planet,” he said. When it comes to climate change, “we’re significantly worse off than we thought we were,” and “as far as American democracy is concerned, we’ve seen the rise in fascist governments in Hungary, Austria, Brazil . . . and it could very easily and very quickly happen here.”
But it is the state’s financial situation that seems to be driving Rendon’s plans for the near future: he has decided to run for state treasurer after he terms out of the legislature in 2024. “I’m incredibly proud of the work that we’ve done as a state,” he said, and serving as treasurer would allow him to continue to work on the state’s fiscal future. “As unsexy as that sounds,” he said, “it has an impact on the services we all want to see.”
PPIC’s Speaker Series on California’s Future invites thought leaders and changemakers with diverse perspectives to participate critically, constructively, and collaboratively in public conversations. The purpose is to give Californians a better understanding of how our leaders are addressing the challenges facing our state.
PPIC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. PPIC does not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor does it support, endorse, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office. Any opinions expressed by event participants are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect any position of the Public Policy Institute of California.