Assembly Candidate Torgan Visits PPCC

California Assembly District 50 hopeful Brad Torgan speaks on tax reform and other issues with the Pali Community Council.

The Pacific Palisades Community Council hosted a Q&A session Thursday with . The lone Republican in the race shared his views on tax reform and other issues affecting the state and local community.

"It's about tax reform," Torgan said during his opening remarks. "Now when I say tax reform ... I'm talking about structure. As a state we rely too heavily on the two most volatile forms of taxation—income tax and capital gains."

Torgan called for a broad restructuring of California's tax policy that will make the state more attractive to small businesses and reduce budget shortfalls.

"It's literally putting everything on the table and finding a structure that instead of having these peaks and valleys has a much more even keel," Torgan said. "Part of the problem with our budget is it's tough to budget when you have these huge swings every two or three years."

He also noted the state's low per-pupil spending on education.

"When our tax rates and our tax burdens are as high as they are, and we spend as little as we do per student on education, our priorities are seriously out of whack," said Torgan, who cited "over-regulation" as another component of taxation that creates an atmosphere of uncertainty which drives businesses out of the state.

"This is going sound really strange coming out of the mouth of a Republican, but I worry that we're becoming two Californias—a California of just the very rich and very poor," he added. "We have a climate in this state that is so hostile to business and business development that we are chasing out the middle class, we are chasing out middle-class employers, and we are chasing out resources and the energy and the drive that that sector of our community brings."

PPCC members asked questions that included the possibility of taxing energy companies for oil and carbon extraction, propositions 28 and 29, environmental regulations and the state budget deficit.

"I find it kind of odd that California is the only oil-producing state that doesn't have an extraction tax," Torgan said. "I think we need to consider it, and not just an oil extraction tax but a carbon extraction tax. So when we talk about forest products as well, put it in the mix."

Torgan added that such proposed taxes should be part of a sweeping restructuring of the state's entire tax system "so we don't have the volatility that we have today."

PPCC Chair Emeritus Richard Cohen asked the candidate for his views on the California Environmental Quality Act.

"CEQA works pretty well the way it does now, it probably needs a little tweaking and streamlining," Torgan replied. "The problem with CEQA isn't with CEQA itself, ... it's with the abuse and misuse of CEQA."

He cited abuses such as developers' and government officials' desire to have misleadingly benign environmental impact reports as well as labor unions' use of the law in attempts to thwart the expansion of nonunion businesses.

The candidate opposes Proposition 29, which seeks to add a $1 tax for a pack of cigarettes to specifically fund a cancer research program, because the revenue generated will not go into the state's general fund but instead will "create a new bureaucracy, $700 million a year of which $100 million a year can go to real estate and administrative salaries with no guarantee that that money will be spent in California," he said.

On Proposition 28, which aims to change term limits for legislators from 14 to 12 years but allows officials to serve in the state senate or assembly for the entire time, Torgan said extended service in the same legislative house was a good idea, as was the two-year reduction.

PPCC member Richard Wulliger asked Torgan for his thoughts on how to reduce the state's $16 billion budget deficit.

"There's a whole host of things that can be done," said Torgan, who cited education reforms such as allowing school districts to delay compliance with class-size reduction mandates and a modest raise in community college tuition, as well as consolidating state agencies. "There's not going to be any one big fix, there are going to be a lot of things—$60 million here, $90 million here—that are going to get us to what is more money."

The newly redrawn 50th Assembly District includes the Palisades, Malibu, Beverly Hills and other Westside locations.

The primary election is June 5, and the general election is November 6.


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