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More of Krekorian on the hot seat

July 22, 2009

We asked Democratic Assemblyman Paul Krekorian about his decision to run for Los Angeles City Council, among other things, during a Q&A on Tuesday, but there was more to the conversation.

In these additional questions, which did not appear in our print edition, we kept Krekorian on the hot seat about his legislative efforts:

Q: Educators have argued that you, as a former school board president, have maybe not done enough to advocate on behalf of schools and limit the impact of state cuts on students. Can you point to concrete measures that you have promoted that will prevent these kinds of cuts?

A: I have pursued legislation that will actually improve the funding of districts like Glendale and Burbank, but this has been an environment of such dramatic downward pressure that it really is a question of minimizing the harm and since schools take up 50% of the entire state general fund budget. When you’re faced with the necessity of cuts this dramatic, there’s no way that they’re going to not impact on the schools. So we’ve tried to make it as easy as possible for the schools to meet that burden by, for example, adding cuts to the maintenance factor so that there’s repayment. Giving greater flexibility to their school districts to be able to spend their categorical funding in ways that meet the needs of the specific district. Other ways that we have tried to minimize the harm. But look, there’s no way around the fact that when you’re faced with a $40+ billion deficit as we were earlier in the year, that that’s going to have an impact on education.

Q: But do you feel that you used your experience as a school board member to promote some of these things?

A: I think both in my arguments on the floor of the Assembly and in my caucus, my passion has always been to fight for public schools and I think you can see that on the comments that I’ve made during budget negotiations right on the floor of the Assembly and I’ve done everything that I’ve been able to do in advocating with my leadership, with my republican colleagues and with others to try to protect education funding. Not just protect education funding, but increase education funding and I think given the unprecedented nature of this fiscal crisis and all that we face I believe we have done as much as could humanly be done to try to protect our schools.

Q: You and many in the entertainment industry have celebrated the passage of your legislation to curb the occurrence of film and television productions that locate in other states because of financial incentives, but some say that your plan will not do enough to help keep large projects, which have the most related jobs, within the state. Is your bill strong enough to have a significant impact on local economies.

A: Oh, absolutely. That argument about larger projects really doesn’t — it’s not consistent with the reality of the entertainment industry. And that is that the larger budget films are the ones that will be least influenced by production incentives so that’s why we focused this incentive on the types of projects that will be most likely to be influenced on whether they go to another state or country or stay in California. Now, is it enough? I believe it probably is not enough but it’s an important start after 15 years of failure by other legislators and leaders in Sacramento to try to enact this. My bill is the first success that we’ve ever had in creating an incentive for film and TV production. So I’m very proud that we’ve broken through that barrier. Now we need to build on that success and expand it further.

Q: One of your bills promoting high targets for renewable energy production has received mixed responses from power utilities within your district. Do you believe you can successfully promote the plan without the backing of your local utilities?

A: Yes, but I want to make sure that we continue to develop the policy in a way that really does best serve the interests of the utilities in my area as well as other areas in California. So we continue to work with municipal utilities in Glendale, Burbank, Los Angeles and throughout the state to address the concerns that they have about their existing renewable portfolio. And in fact, in AB 64 we are developing language to ensure that those resources will be able to be included.

Q: Will the changes allow out-of-state renewable energy resources to count toward your higher targets for utilities, which would have to produce a third of their power from green sources by 2020 under your plan?

A: We’re trying to find the balance that will allow us to grandfather in resources that were acquired in good faith by municipal utilities that were operating under the rules that were then there, while also fulfilling the objectives of the bill which are to generate green jobs in California and to offset the local air problem that comes from generating fossil fuel within California. So striking a balance is challenging, but we’re getting close to achieving that balance.

Q: Does your plan have the teeth to help these utilities overcome challenges presented by environmental groups or cities that block developments of green power plants or transmission lines?

A: That is perhaps the most important objective of this bill: to make it easier for utilities to be able to build that transmission, which is essential to freeing California from its dependence on fossil fuels. It takes eight to 10 years to build a high voltage transmission line in California and unless we expedite that we won’t be able to take advantage of the great opportunities that are presented for expanding sustainable renewable energy in California.

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