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3 Democratic Candidates For Governor Debate Education

Call it the first debate in the race for the next California governor: three of the most prominent Democratic candidates running for the office in 2018 met at a California Charter Schools Association conference Tuesday for a talk focused on education, but which hinted at their broader platforms.

State treasurer John Chiang kicked off the debate by touting his fiscal credentials.

"I am the only state elected official to have been elected to all three public financial offices in California," Chiang said. "Understanding the changing economy, the impact on taxes, and what it does to local school districts in regards to finances."

Chiang repeatedly argued he knows how to save taxpayer money and takes an evidence-based approach to issues.

Former Los Angeles mayor and Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaragoisa had his own theme he largely circled back to.

"What I think California needs to do is we need to focus on jobs and job creation," Villaragoisa said. "We need to focus on the economy. We lost an election in no small part because we forgot that progressives need to address the fact that there are too many people who are struggling."

For former schools superintendent Delaine Eastin, it was all about education funding.

"Children need to come first, just like they do in your family, and after that we figure out what we can afford," Eastin said. "But a lot of it we need to pay for up front."

She said if projects like high-speed rail are worth pursuing, lawmakers should identify dedicated taxes and fees to fund them, rather than relying on bonds.

All three candidates supported more education funding, but not the same method.

"We already are the highest-taxed state in the nation," Villaragoisa said. "You’re not going to tax your way out of creating the jobs that we need, the tax-base that we need."

Eastin disagreed, providing an implicit criticism of California's 1970s change to property taxes, Proposition 13.

"I’m sorry, we’re not the highest-taxed state in the union if you add in property tax," said Eastin (the conservative Tax Foundation ranks California 3rd, including property tax). "The truth is a lot of commercial and industrial property is not getting reassessed when it’s being sold, and that needs to change. Somebody will say, ‘Oh that’s a split roll.’ I say no, we have a split roll now."

Chiang sided with Eastin.

"Those are steps that we should correct so that you have a fair reflection and application of the law, and by benefit there’s also additional revenues into local communities through property taxes," Chiang said.

The only well-known candidate for governor not on stage was Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. A spokesman for Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom says he did not attend due to a scheduling conflict out-of-state.

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