Businessman John Cox, candidate for governor in 2018, was asked in a San Francisco forum last week to name the top three issues that will have major consequences in California’s future. Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO, posed the question, which has been answered by all gubernatorial candidates appearing before PPIC audiences.
Cox said his top priorities are:
- Removing the “corruptive” influence of special interest money. “The idea that special interests fund the campaigns of people they are looking to to get things done—it’s an indefensible system,” he said. “I don’t necessarily think that we send a whole bunch of corrupt people to Sacramento,” he said. “The trouble is, it’s a corrupt structure.” Legislators, he said, “are almost required to be professional fundraisers.”
- Making the state more affordable and improving the business climate. The cost of housing, electricity, gasoline—the essentials to quality of life—are pushing the middle class into “almost-poverty situations,” Cox said, adding that improving the business climate is also essential so that the state can grow.
- Addressing state employee pension debt. Cox said an overly generous legislature as well as governors and special interests have created a “debt bomb.” Our unfounded pension debt is a “sword of Damocles hanging over our economy,” he said.
How would Cox diminish the influence of special interests? He is sponsoring the Neighborhood Legislature Reform Act, which he hopes to qualify for the statewide ballot. The initiative calls for carving up each assembly and state senate district into 100 neighborhoods, each with its own representative. The 100 representatives in each neighborhood district would meet to choose one to go to Sacramento. In other words, there would still be just 120 legislators meeting in the Capitol. With districts that number just a few thousand households, candidates could run campaigns with a few hundred dollars, Cox said. The idea, he said, is that “you don’t need money to run a race.”
The conversation with Cox is part of the PPIC Speaker Series on California’s Future. PPIC is inviting all major candidates for governor to participate if they reach a certain threshold in the polls. The goal is to give Californians a better understanding of how the candidates intend to address the challenges facing our state.