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Jul 23rd
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Town Hall with Supervisor Mark Stone

Mark StoneNow that Democrats have won a supermajority in both houses of the state legislature—including your newly won seat on the state assembly—what can we expect will change in Sacramento, if anything? What might get done that hasn’t been possible in recent years?

To understand what possible changes lie ahead in Sacramento, it’s important to acknowledge the monumental changes that have already occurred. Back in 2010, Proposition 25 granted the California legislature the authority to approve state budgets with a simple majority. Californians also opted for a new primary system, which allowed the top two vote-getters to proceed to the general election, regardless of their party.

They approved the creation of an independent citizens’ commission to redraw legislative and Congressional district lines. This past June, California voted to modify term-limits. In our most recent election, despite dire predictions and historical trends, voters approved Proposition 30, the governor’s critically needed tax plan. Change is here. I’m honored to represent and work with Santa Cruz County residents in the 29th Assembly District in this exciting new era.

With the new supermajority, we will be able to work on some real reforms needed to bring our state back to economic and social health. This will require engaging in honest and meaningful conversations about how to fix our chronically under-funded infrastructure, schools, and health and human services safety net. I expect to see real progress on these fronts without resorting to a myopic “cuts-only” view to resolving our fiscal crisis.

Though the supermajority will certainly be enormously helpful, it would be foolish to regard it as a panacea to fixing Sacramento. Democrats alone can’t solve our state’s problems. All members of the legislature have to sit down together as objective problem solvers to get the job done. It’s what the voters expect and it’s certainly what they deserve. If California lawmakers don’t deliver, then the changes the voters implemented to make California a more governable state will be undone by them in future elections.

What does the county’s recent refinancing of $11 million in Special Tax Refunding Bonds mean for the people in your district? 

In 2005, nearly three-quarters of Felton voters approved the $11 million ballot initiative authorizing the issuance of these Special Tax Refunding Bonds to acquire the water system from California American Water (Cal-Am). By this action residents agreed to tax themselves between $598 and $695 a year for 30 years, believing that emancipation from a huge multinational corporation that continually sought to impose staggering rate increases would benefit them in the end. Cal-Am, a very reluctant seller at the time, was persuaded by legal and other means to sell the water system to the publicly held San Lorenzo Valley Water District in 2008. It was a monumental achievement that received national media coverage, and inspired other communities around the country to fight corporate control of their water.

Today, with Felton’s water in the hands of a public utility, calculations estimate that even with the tax increase, most residents are saving hundreds of dollars per year. The county is now seeking to increase that savings. Taking advantage of the current low interest rates in the municipal bond market, the Board of Supervisors voted last month to refinance the outstanding $9.5 million special tax bonds at a lower interest rate. By refinancing in today’s market, and by taking advantage of the Felton District’s ‘A’ credit rating, we anticipate reducing our interest rate from 5.1 percent to 4.1 percent, saving about $45,000 annually. That savings will be passed directly on to the Felton water customers, who will see a $25 to $30 annual reduction on their property tax bill. If rates end up being higher than anticipated, the sale would be delayed until more favorable rates are achieved. Decreasing debt service and saving taxpayer money is good for both the county and Felton.

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