In a 50-minute interview with CalMatters, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis discusses her political ambitions.
CALIFORNIA, USA — This story was initially revealed by CalMatters.
The duties of California’s lieutenant governor are gentle in comparison with different statewide elected officers: voting on the boards of three public greater training programs; serving on the fee that oversees tens of millions of acres of land beneath state waterways; and stepping in for the governor when he leaves the state, as Eleni Kounalakis was doing this week when she joined CalMatters for an interview about her re-election marketing campaign.
But the second-highest office in the state can be a strong launching pad for Californians with higher aspirations. Two of the final 4 governors served instantly prior as lieutenant governor, together with present Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Kounalakis, a longtime housing developer and former U.S. ambassador to Hungary who was elected in 2018, made clear that she’s keen on being the next — which, if she succeeded, would make her the primary girl to control the most important state within the nation.
“I think if we are going to have a woman governor of California, that she shouldn’t be coy in her ambitions,” Kounalakis stated. “I have found my first four years as lieutenant governor to be a very good training ground for the bigger job.”
That contains advancing greater training, environmental protections, gender equity and California’s engagement on a global stage, Kounalakis stated, although she known as rebuilding the lieutenant governor’s office the primary accomplishment of her first time period.
“By the time I came in, it was not fully functional. And so I started with what does the Constitution dictate that this office should be used for?” she stated. “Being involved in learning and understanding what’s happening in state government is very important.”
First, nevertheless, Kounalakis must win a second time period. Here is what the Democrat instructed CalMatters that she would do with 4 extra years on the job.
More funding to assist school college students graduate sooner
Kounalakis factors to public greater training as the best device that California has to fight revenue inequality and its affordability disaster, by serving to college students get higher-paying jobs. She stated she would proceed to push for the state to increase funding for its colleges and universities, which has dropped to about 10% of normal tax revenues within the state funds from 18% greater than 4 a long time in the past.
“It is a clear investment in our future,” she stated. “It isn’t just an investment in the future GDP. It’s an investment in the richness of the fabric of our society and it is an investment in our democracy.”
Kounalakis stated that money ought to go to increasing slots for residents on the University of California, which has been criticized for bringing in too many out-of-state and international students who pay extra in tuition, and to lift commencement charges within the California State University system, the place simply 33% of first-time college students end in 4 years and degree completion among Black students is even lower.
“Any private university, if you said that only one in three of your students are graduating after four years, people would rebel against such a notion,” she stated. “So we have a lot of room left to grow in figuring out how to make sure that when our students arrive on campus, they have the support and the assistance that they need, and a system that’s easy enough to navigate that they know how to get all their credits in four years and get their major done.”
Phase out offshore oil drilling
As certainly one of three members of the State Lands Commission, Kounalakis has outsized management over the way forward for a handful of oil rigs that also function in state waters off the coast of California. She doesn’t assist offshore oil drilling, due to the environmental risks of a potential spill.
“The waters off of the coast around Southern California are far more valuable to us as a state in terms of recreation, in terms of habitat, in terms of trade,” she stated. “It just doesn’t make sense to have this activity going on.”
But don’t anticipate the fee to maneuver to close down the remaining rigs any time quickly. While there was a moratorium on new oil and gasoline leases in state waters because the 1969 Santa Barbara spill, a couple of corporations nonetheless have contracts to function and Kounalakis stated it might be prohibitively costly to purchase them out. She has as a substitute sponsored laws to spice up the event of offshore wind power services.
“What I am focused on is when we do have the legal authority to transition away from offshore drilling, that we do it,” she stated. “Since I have been in office, we have seen the closure of three offshore oil operations and the transitioning and transferring over of offshore lands, significant thousands of acres, back into the marine sanctuaries.”
Kounalakis’ Republican opponent, Angela Underwood Jacobs, equally has instructed CalMatters that she considers the shoreline a valuable useful resource and would assist phasing out offshore drilling fully.
Build housing to ease affordability disaster
Kounalakis agrees that the state minimal wage, which elevated to $15 per hour for massive employers and $14 per hour for small companies at first of the year, isn’t sufficient to reside on in California.
She is intrigued by experiments with a assured revenue in cities similar to Stockton and is watching the end result. But, like Underwood Jacobs, she doesn’t favor taking extra steps to lift the hourly rate past its present trajectory tied to inflation, which is able to convey the minimal wage to $15.50 for all staff in 2023.
“I’m supportive of the process that we are on right now in implementing the higher minimum wage,” Kounalakis stated. “It’s important to recognize that unions in California have actually done a good job in making sure that their members are paid enough, or more anyway than minimum wage, and getting benefits and other things.”
Kounalakis blames an absence of housing as the most important concern driving California’s affordability crisis. Though her office has no authority over housing coverage, she stated the state should work extra intently with the non-public sector to spice up growth.
“We do have a supply and demand problem that’s driving up the cost,” she stated.
She doesn’t purchase into critiques, nevertheless, that the price of residing is inflicting a mass exodus of Californians or that the state’s wealthiest residents, who present practically half of revenue tax revenues, are fleeing excessive tax charges.
“People are coming and going all the time — coming here from around the world or around the country to start a business, and then after that business matures, or frankly, they’re just ready to go home, they might leave,” Kounalakis stated. “When you draw the lens back to really understand the state of California, it is important to know that we have always had these boom-and-bust cycles, since the first massive wave of immigration happened during the gold rush.”
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